Like many victims, I was interested to see the latest figures that the Mankind Initiative released on male victims of domestic abuse last august. It was almost a relief to see some real statistics simplified and clear for people to understand. However, that is where my relief ended.
According to these statistics, in 2013/14, over 700,000 men were victims of domestic abuse. That means 2 in 5 domestic cases have male victims and to me that's staggering. But what I find even more staggering is the lack of support and services available to these men.
When I realised I was in trouble, I found there wasn't much help out there for me. It would take months for me to gather the courage to open a browser window, only to find when I type the words "Abuse" or "Violence", I would only find services and campaigns catered to women. Eventually I would lose that bravery abandon the search and endure another few months.
The latest campaign from the Salvation Army South Africa can be a perfect example of this. It is a powerful image, topically relevant and even uses latest trends to engage with the populous. However, the text reads "Stop abuse against women" and no mention of men. The UK branch of the Salvation Army then promoted this image - and although they say they are a leader in the field - as important as this service is to female victims, it fails to cater for a large percentage of people who otherwise have nowhere else to turn.
As a survivor I find this deeply disturbing. Although the figures show that the majority of the cases that are recorded females are the victims, we shouldn't fail to recognise and help the 38% of cases that are male. Male victims or survivors seeing these campaigns can feel that there is nowhere for them to turn - I know I did.
Last year I spoke with a friend of mine who had disclosed to me he had gone through an awful experience with their recent partner. The same story I've heard over and over - he couldn't find the help he needed. Sitting in his kitchen, we shared our stories but couldn't understand why these organisations fight for the abuse against women to stop, but never men. Why do we not want to stop abuse altogether? Violence is Violence. It's not right. Help and support should not be conditional on gender. We wondered what it was we could do to stop others feeling the loneliness and isolation we did.
With a small dedicated team, we founded Stay Brave UK - a non-profit awareness organisation to end the stigma surrounding male victims and signposting them to the right services for them. We want to build a network of organisations that provide services inclusive of men - that promote equality with their services - where service users can go without fear of being turned away. We want to fight the stigma and gender roles, as history proves, that takes time. Right now we want to help and support those who need it now.