Havering Women’s Aid starts new domestic abuse helpline for men

Havering Women’s Aid, of Hornchurch, has set up a helpline specifically for men, which opened on April 15.

And in its first three weeks it has received calls from almost as many men as called in the entirety of the previous year.

Vicki Nicholson, manager of the charity, said: “We knew the number of men experiencing domestic abuse has gone up in the borough and nationally, however we were not having that many more men using our helpline.

“Now and again we would get men calling, but they did not know if they could get support through us.”

According to a report submitted to Havering Council’s health and wellbeing board in February 2014, between 2011 and 2014 men were the victims of 21 per cent of reported domestic violence in the borough.

Yet from April 2014 to April 2015 Havering Woman’s Aid had only six male callers compared to more than 1,000 female callers.

The new helpline is called MENDAS, which stands for Men’s Domestic Abuse Services, and Vicki hopes by starting a phone line solely for men they will know they can get help.

“We have made some changes. All our staff are trained to help men, and we are reaching out to men who are suffering domestic abuse.”

Jo, a lead support worker for the charity who chose not to give her surname, said: “Male victims experience barriers because there are a lot of stereotypes out there which are put on them.

“The masculinity thing, where men are supposed to be tough and strong, a lot of that comes from the media. A lot of people have been brought up thinking girls cry, men do not cry. Because of this some men do not feel comfortable coming forward.”

Jo also fears that the statistics are under reporting the number of men experiencing domestic abuse.

She continued: “Figures can be very misleading. We work with a massive amount of people who are too frightened to make the next step.

“A lot of people do not want to go and report their partners, especially men. They may have children with their partner, the abusive partner may go to prison if convicted of a crime.”

Respect, the domestic violence charity, set up a male only helpline at the start of 2007.

A spokesman said an increase in men reporting domestic violence had been seen over the past seven or eight years.

Vicki and Jo are hoping this will be the case in Havering.

The phone number for MENDAS is 01708 397974. For further advice: havering.gov.uk/domesticviolence