Supporting a male victim of domestic violence or sexual assault
Believe what the victim is telling you
Domestic Violence – You may feel surprised, shocked or even find it difficult to understand how someone you know well is abusive towards their partner. It’s okay to feel this way – many abusers are masters at hiding their abusive behaviour but it’s important that you do not share your shock with the victim as it could be interpreted as disbelief.
Sexual Assault– Many men will choose not to talk about the sexual abuse or sexual violence that they have or are experiencing due to the fear of not being believed. Our responses to a victim when they are disclosing abuse will have a direct impact on the victim therefore it is very important that you believe the victim, and let them know about the following services:
Safeline: (for men, women and adolescents who have experienced sexual abuse)
0808 800 5008 | main helpline | 0808 800 5005 | male helpline | 0808 800 5007 | young people’s helpline| safeline.org.uk
Survivors UK: (for adult male survivors of rape or sexual assault)
The ManKind Initiative: (for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse)
01823 334244 | www.mankind.org.uk
Men’s Advice Line: (for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse)
0808 801 0327 | mensadviceline.org.uk
Mankind Counselling: (for men who have experienced sexual abuse)
01273 911680 | mankindcounselling.org.uk
Listen without judgement
Domestic Violence – You may feel that you need to understand why this happening or why the victim is still with the abusive partner and there are many reasons why a victim may not be able to leave. It’s important to remember that the first step in leaving an abusive relationship is telling someone what is happening and how that person listens in that first conversation can either mean that the victim continues accessing support or withdraws back into the relationship as they felt that they were not believed, judged or their abusive partners behaviour has been dismissed with an excuse (link no-more excuses video).
Sexual Assault – ‘Sexual abuse or sexual assault is any act of a sexual nature where one person has not consented or agreed’. It is important to remember this statement when supporting a victim of sexual violence as, often without realising it, we ask questions about what happened, how it happened, where it happened and at times these questions can make a victim feel that they are somewhat responsible for what has happened to them – which of course they are not.
Signpost to support
Following listening, the next most important offer of support is the telephone number or details of a specialist support service.
Domestic Violence – Specialist service will be able to support the victim to leave the relationship, in the safest possible way. The service will support the victim in contacting the police (non-emergency call), if this is what victim wants to do. The specialist service can also discuss protection orders, child contact and criminal proceeding and put you in contact with solicitors who can offer legal advice specific to victim’s circumstances. (LINK to Legal options and Link to what an IDVA does)
Sexual Assault – Men are not all the same. Different types and methods of support should be offered for example telephone support from a Men’s advice line, face to face support from an IDVA or ISVA, talking therapies such as counselling or peer support from other survivors of abuse.
If you are worried about a friend or family member, you can use the Bright Sky app to find your nearest support service. You can also work through a questionnaire to help determine if you are in an abusive relationship, as well as a questionnaire designed to support you if you are concerned for a friend/family member. Find out more about Bright Sky on our Get Help page.
Being a Man
Every man has their own experiences and beliefs about what it means to be a man1.
While every man is unique there are common social pressures that men face such as how they should behave, feel, think and react to situations. These societal expectations can have an impact on how a man deals with certain situations for example; Men are encourage to be physically strong, emotionally strong and deal with their own problems alone and never to ask for help1.
Understanding the impact of the social expectations places on men will help us understand; why men may choose not to report sexual violence, what type of support male survivors want and how these social expectations impact survivors.
Male victims of childhood sexual abuse or experiences of sexual violence as adults may:
- Feel a reluctance to engage in physical contact
- Feel like it was their fault – as they should have been physically stronger to prevent the attack.
- Childhood victims of abuse may feel that they should have told someone about the abuse but it’s important to remember that the abuser, (paedophiles) groom their victims; that they use coercive control and blackmail to silence their victims, and the abuser is always in a position of power as they are the adults.
- Feel that they need to ‘prove’ their manhood, physically by increasing their physical size or by engaging in violent or dangerous behaviour. They may feel that they may need to prove themselves sexually by having multiple partners and being sexually in control.
- Feel confused about their gender and sexual identity.
- Believe that they are not ‘manly’, enough.
- Both male and female victims of abuse feel a loss of power, control and confidence.
- Experience problems with closeness and intimacy.
- Experience problems – physical and emotional.
- Homophobia – fear or intolerance of any form of ‘homosexuality’.
- Have a fear that sexual abuse may cause him to become gay.
Looking for support?
Survivors UK provide support to men who have been victims of sexual abuse. They provide the following services:
Information, blog, newsletter, self-help guides etc through their website as well as details of all other services for men throughout the country – there has been an increase in the traffic to the website, with 144,654 people visiting the website (compared with 30,764 during the previous year), generating 166,088 visits (compared with 37,204 during the previous year) and 483,567 page views (compared with 94,041 during the previous year). Average traffic to the website increased by 346.43% and user engagement was higher from the previous year. The profile of website visitors tends to be those who are younger, mainly aged 25-34 (32.56%), 18-24 (32.06%) and 35-44 (16.43%)
Telephone enquiry line – used by survivors and their family/friends to seek help during office hours with voicemail outside those hours: 02035983898
Webchat/SMS emotional support service operating seven days a week now available through a mobile app for anyone wherever situated giving anonymous and confidential support – this achieves more than 1,000 calls per annum with half of these being first-time callers.
Telephone and online counselling with trained and accredited clinicians for anyone wherever situated. They offer more than 1,000 hours counselling during the year and aim to provide this to at least 75 clients.
Face-to-face counselling and groupwork for those in the Greater London area attending our purpose built therapy rooms during the day and evenings – two groupworks are currently advertised for 8 participants each for 12 weeks.
A male ISVA (independent sexual violence advisor) from those in the Greater London area (including referrals from outside that area for clients who want a male ISVA) for those going through the criminal justice system preparatory to and during criminal proceedings against perpetrators. Current caseload is 61.
Training for both professionals and others about the issues around male sexual abuse – this has also involved young people through talks at sixth forms and universities. There is a dearth of and real need for training of GPs, social workers and others who may come into contact with male survivors but may not identify that they have been abused though not knowing what to look for and what questions to ask.
- A Self Help Guide for Males Who Have Been Sexually Abused | West Yorkshire Survivors
- Dealing with Sexual Violence | Living Well
- An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office in January 2013
Myths & Realities of Male Sexual Abuse | Survivors UK
30 Key Facts about Male Victims of Abuse | Mankind Initiative
The Impact of Sexual Abuse | Survivors Manchester
Help & Support | Men’s Advice Line
Safeline’s Services For Men| Safeline