English helpline will aid Scotland's male victims of domestic violence

A DOMESTIC violence helpline for men has been expanded to take calls from Scotland, following a campaign to raise awareness about male victims.

The London-based Men's Advice Line is receiving 28,000-a-year from the Scottish Government to train staff in Scottish law, housing and child custody rules so they are equipped to help men trying to escape abusive relationships.

A separate arm of the helpline, called Respect, will provide advice to anyone who is worried that their own behaviour is becoming abusive.

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More than 7,000 men in Scotland reported being abused by a partner last year, and 14 per cent of domestic abuse reported to the police involves a male victim.

However, the true picture is believed to be far worse as many victims are possibly too embarrassed to come forward.

Alison Waugh, 58, from Edinburgh, and Jackie Walls, from Fife, submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, calling for campaigns to focus on helping men as well as women.

Ms Waugh, 58, told the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee: "I know people who have been at the receiving end and was really quite shocked when I realised how difficult life can be for a man in that situation. I was like everyone else – I had no idea."

Housing and communities minister Alex Neil said: "Domestic abuse destroys relationships and can have a severe impact on someone's self-esteem and confidence. It's utterly unacceptable and we are determined to do everything we can in Scotland to break the silence, tackle taboos and support people to get their lives back on track.

"Let's be absolutely clear that men and women can both be victims and we know that men feel under immense pressure to keep up the pretence that everything is OK.

"It's vital that we make it clear to men that they are not alone and that there is someone standing ready to listen and help.

"We hope this helpline will give men encouragement to get the help they are entitled to."

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The expansion of the helpline to cover Scotland has also been welcomed by TV presenter Stephen Jardine, who has campaigned against domestic violence by men against women. "Think of domestic abuse and you think of men attacking women, but there is another side to the problem that remains in the shadows," he said.

"An increasing number of men are also victims but often they are too ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help."

Mark Ward, the national co-ordinator for Men's Health Forum Scotland, said: "We are delighted and welcome this new service for men in Scotland. We will publicise and encourage our membership to support it. Domestic abuse destroys homes and personal dignity, no-one should suffer abuse of any kind, and it must be eradicated."

'My wife attacked me for the umpteenth time'

ADVISERS at the UK helpline are being trained in Scots law as they look to answer more calls from north of the Border.

However, despite not being advertised in Scotland, the Men's Advice Line has already received some calls from Scots who heard about the service through word of mouth.

Here are some examples of the calls, with anonymity protected.

Call one: "I have found your details after being attacked this morning by my wife for the umpteenth time.

"Torn between phoning the police and the effect that would have on my two young children, I am at a bit of a loss as to who to turn to.

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"I can't really call your helpline as I am at work most of the time it is manned and privacy is impossible in the office I work in.

"Ideally I would like some pointers on what to do next as it has happened so many times that it is time for it to stop."

Call two: "A male friend of mine living in the Scottish Borders is, and has been, in an abusive relationship for a few years now. He is very embarrassed to talk about it but has decided enough is enough and wants to leave.

"The police and ambulance have been called out to his house many times as she drinks heavily and self-harms to guilt him into staying with her. I have told him to go and talk to the police but he is extremely embarrassed that this is happening and reluctant to talk about it.

"I understand that you possibly won't be able to answer all my questions but any advice or information would be much appreciated."