Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

19.21 17 Nov 2020


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A man who suffered domestic abuse has urged anyone in a similar situation to talk to somebody - saying seeking help is a sign of emotional strength rather than weakness.

John (not his real name) spoke to The Hard Shoulder about his experience of domestic abuse, which began almost a decade ago.

He told Kieran his experience started when his then wife started to drink heavily and have affairs.

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'It's not a weakness' - Man who suffered domestic abuse urges others to seek help

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He said: "That's when the abuse started... when she was caught and found out.

"It was mostly verbal. She had made the decision that she wanted me out of the house - I always thought I was strong mentally... then she started using the children as a vehicle to hurt me.

"I went and I sought help, because I wasn't allowed sleep. There was a lot of psychological abuse.

"It was extremely all-consuming... I think there was one time I didn't get any sleep for three days."

'Very hard decision'

John said he eventually had to walk out of the house, in the hopes his ex would stop using the children 'as a tool' to hurt him.

He said it was a "very hard decision to walk out... but I had to do it for myself".

John says he hasn't been able to reconnect with his children, and now has 'no relationship whatsoever' with them.

He explained: "I haven't seen my children in quite some time now... it's over three years.

"I have exhausted every avenue - courts etc... - and it's to no avail. If a mother doesn't want her children to see their father, well then there's nothing nobody can do about that.

"I was driven to my lowest point where I did try to take my life, because of what was being done to the children."

For anyone else - male or female - suffering domestic abuse, John had this advice: "Go speak to someone and open up.

"That is actually a sign of emotional strength: it's not a weakness. Talk to somebody who is close to them that they trust... I think it's important. It's vital."

'Breaking through the stigma'

Kathrina Bentley, CEO of Men's Aid, says her organisation has seen a spike in contacts from men since the COVID-19 crisis began.

She said: "The numbers to date on our helpline since COVID has just been over 3,300 contacts from men - 170 men have come forward for the emergency psychotherapy counselling by phone.

"We've seen 150 men in our outreach at Dolphin House, and we have outreach across the north-east of Ireland as well.

"We're very conscious men are also trapped in houses.... even where work may have been a safe zone, there wasn't even that let-up either [when working from home]."

She said there can be an expectation that men are not meant to have strong feelings or be sensitive.

However, she said: "It's quite the opposite with the men we work with - [it's about] how much they miss their children and families.

"Men hurt too, is what we say."

She said recent coverage of domestic abuse against males means society is 'breaking through the stigma', and that men are coming forward to seek help.

However, she said more supports are needed - in terms of housing, social welfare and mental health.

She also suggested the criminal justice system is a 'huge area that needs reviewing'.

Any men experiencing domestic abuse can contact the Men's Aid confidential helpline on 01-554-3811
Main image: File photo. Picture by: Con Tanasiuk/Zuma Press/PA Images

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