Derry men’s organisation ‘MAN’ has revealed a pattern emerging of men who were abused as children ending up in abusive domestic relationships.
Michael Lynch, from Men’s Action Network (MAN) spoke at the La Dolce Vita Project’s Conference about men who were victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence locally.
He said that MAN had a team of 18 counsellors seeing around 70 men every week, around 10 per cent of whom would have experienced sexual or domestic violence.
Mr. Lynch said: “We are beginning to see a correlation between a lot of men who had suffered childhood sexual abuse and then are in abusive relationships from a domestic violence perspective, because of their vulnerability and how difficult it is for them to come forward and talk.”
He explained that MAN has been operating in the city for 22 years and provides a safe space for men to come and talk about their experiences and support on all sorts of life issues, and said that men were unlikely to open up about abuse initially.
“MAN’s always been there to try to create that space to allow that. Often they would come talking about other things and then they would talk about that,” he said, adding: “We’re still a community transitioning from a war but I have always talked about the fact that the hidden war goes on, that war behind closed doors where we crucify each other as men and women.”
Mr Lynch said MAN was working with others to address the impact domestic abuse on men, women and children.
“It is all our responsibility to talk about this, challenge it wherever we see it, try and support individuals - we know a lot of this is going unreported and try to encourage them to come forward.”
Speaking earlier at the conference, Mark H. Durkan, SDLP Foyle MLA, applauded the efforts of La Dolce Vita and others who provide a ‘lifeline’ for domestic violence victims.
Mr Durkan said La Dolce Vita needed greater government support, adding: “Funding is a gap that needs plugged and I and the SDLP are happy to work with this project to try and secure funding and support for this fantastic organisation. We need to see a more joined up approach from government when it comes to tackling domestic abuse. This is much more than merely a justice issue.”
Sinn Fein representative, former chair of the Stormont’s Health Committee and local community worker Maeve McLaughlin, meanwhile, paid tribute to La Dolce Vita founder Donna Maria Logue and her team. She said: “As a society we all need to shoulder the burden. I still hear people who say, why couldn’t she just leave?’ That is not an easy scenario for any man or women to walk out of that sort of relationship whenever there are all sorts of controls in play and quite often children and young people involved.”
Ms. McLaughlin said that new legislation being brought in needed to work on the ground, and pointed to statistics from the PSNI which show a 61 per cent increase in sexual offences over the last six years.
“It does almost seem like it is an epidemic. Some of it is about more reporting but we all know there are many, many cases that go unreported.”