A helpline for men who beat their wives has been set up by a man involved in the Women's Refuge movement.

Les Davidson believes it is time that men had the same network of support as women. The Male Advice Line and Enquiries (Male) is the first of its kind in London. It offers advice and help to men who want to stop beating up their wives, girlfriends or children.

But it will also help men who find themselves on the receiving end of domestic violence.

Male, based in Merton, south London, will counsel men who cannot cope with unemployment, debt or drug and alcohol addiction and end up abusing their partners. It will also refer men who are repeatedly violent to agencies offering group therapy - such as Everyman in Brixton and Kensington's Domestic Violence Intervention Project.

Men arrested or cautioned by police after a domestic incident are to be given the help-line's number in the hope they will seek its advice.

Mr Davidson, 53, become involved with Merton Women's Refuge after it was set up in 1975. There he met his wife Barbara, who now runs the place. He said: 'I've been fighting for women's rights for years. Women suffer horrendous violence - but men do too.

'A man needs to admit his violence before he can break the cycle. Contacting us is the hardest thing for a man to do, but we can help.'

Since it was launched in April, eight men have contacted Male, and admitted beating their partners.

But many more have telephoned to say they have suffered violent attacks from wives or girlfriends. They have been stabbed, had boiling liquid poured over them, their teeth knocked out and their genitals injured.

You can contact Male on 081-543 1102 from Mondays to Wednesdays between 9am and noon.