‘Abused men need more help’, says Edinburgh charity

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An Edinburgh-based charity for male victims of domestic abuse have launched a fundraising campaign to help them expand their vital services.

Abused Men in Scotland (AMIS) currently provides support to men in abusive relationships via their freephone helpline but have plans to rent more office space to accommodate face-to-face therapy and a legal clinic.

As the country’s only charity dedicated to supporting men experiencing emotional and physical violence at the hands of a partner or family member, AMIS, established in 2010, is providing a much-needed but often overlooked service.

AMIS services manager Iris Quar said: “Men want to be the big strong guy who can handle any situation which means that lots of them don’t reach services they need.

“People almost always assume that domestic violence victims are female.”

The charity supports any self-identifying male in a relationship with a man or a woman and takes around 650 calls a year – a significant rise from 100 calls in their first year.

Of the more than 58,000 cases of domestic abuse recorded by Police in Scotland in 2016-17, 18 per cent of recorded abuse victims were male.

Conversations around domestic violence are all too often gendered with men overlooked as victims and a stigma attached that prevents sufferers from reaching out for help.

This has to change says Iris: “The shame surrounding male victims of domestic abuse is a real issue for us. It leaves men in danger and vulnerable to mental health issues as well as continued abuse.

“Most of the men we speak to have been too ashamed to contact the police for fear of being judged. They are nervous to tell people their stories.”

Awareness raising is key according to Iris who is encouraged by the new gender neutral Scottish domestic abuse law which criminalises psychological as well as physical abuse.

Some men are signposted to AMIS by women’s aid organisations while others stumble upon their services online. As well as fielding calls from men in troubled relationships, helpline operators regularly speak to friends and families of men who they know or suspect are being abused.

The team currently rents two rooms in Morningside and is hoping to fund the rental of one more to accommodate its expansion. It needs £2500 to pay for the room rental for a year.

Support workers speak to housing and benefits officers on their clients’ behalf as well as organising meeting with financial managers and legal experts to help them map out their next steps. The men who reach out are often amazed that they are received with compassion and not laughed at, so ingrained is their shame.

The telephone is a lifeline to men who are isolated and unable or unwilling to leave their families. Iris said: “There are lots of reasons to stay. Sometimes they have nowhere to go, or they can’t afford to leave or they don’t want to leave their children.

“We help them make better decisions and advise them on how they can keep themselves safe.”