Men do not need to suffer domestic abuse in silence. That was the key message from Health Minister, Jim Wells, as he officially opened the Men’s Advisory Project (MAP) new premises in Belfast.
MAP provide confidential counselling, information and referral services to men experiencing domestic abuse and relationship breakdown in Northern Ireland.
It also provides counselling for men and women who identify problems managing anger.
Speaking as he opened the new premises at Glendinning House, Murray Street, Mr Wells said: “In recent years, it has become clear that domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, social standing, age, ethnicity or sexuality.
“Whilst the home should be a place of safety and rest, sadly, for many people, the home is actually a source of great fear and danger.
“The impact of domestic violence on individuals’ health and wellbeing is substantial: psychological and psychiatric problems, such as depression, anxiety, despair and suicide attempts are higher among those who have been abused, compared with those who have not.
“Furthermore, domestic violence impacts not only victims but also their families and the wider community. It has been estimated that the economic cost of domestic violence and abuse in Northern Ireland for 2010/11 was approximately £610m. This estimated figure includes health, social care, housing, lost economic output, criminal justice services and, most importantly, the intangible human costs.”
MAP published a research report called ‘Towards Gender Equality’. Some of its key findings were:
male victims lacked awareness of domestic abuse issues and often did not identify themselves as victims,
domestic abuse against men was not considered to be as serious as domestic abuse against women, and
men tried to hide domestic abuse incidents and were less likely to report abuse or seek help.
Mr Wells continued: “The message from this report and others like it is that many men suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to speak out and put a stop to the violence.
“In recent years, however, a significant number of achievements have been realised in an ongoing effort to tackle this problem. This work has improved the support services available to all victims of domestic violence and abuse, including men.”
One such achievement is the 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline. The Helpline is currently managed by the Women’s Aid Federation NI and provides a confidential telephone, email and text service open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Another example is the development of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences or “MARACs”. MARACs seek to protect all high risk victims of domestic violence by discussing high risk cases and putting in place appropriate actions and resources to ensure the safety of victims and their children.
Mr Wells continued: “The development of such services to victims can only be achieved through effective partnership working between Government and voluntary and community groups.
“The central role played by voluntary and community groups in supporting victims cannot be overstated. It is important to promote those services and organisations that provide support and advice to victims of domestic violence.”
He added: “I want to congratulate MAP on celebrating their 15th anniversary and to thank them for the positive impact they have had in Northern Ireland. I wish them every success in their new premises and look forward to hearing many stories of relationships restored and lives rebuilt in this very building.”