Men are victims of domestic violence too – and more often than we think

Support in the UK largely serves one purpose: to help female victims. Margherita Santus looks at how things get complicated when it’s a woman dishing out the beatings

Monday 25 April 2022 21:30
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Paul was abused by his ex-wife for 10 years. She locked him out of their house more than 60 times, sometimes even dropping him miles away from home and forcing him to find his own way back. She smashed paintings over his head and, in 2014, she split his head open with a hair dryer, in front of their daughter. Paul, whose surname has been withheld to preserve his anonymity, went to hospital, and called three different domestic violence helplines. One told him they couldn’t help because he was outside their postcode. He claims the other two simply showed a lack of interest: “They point blank said no,” Paul recalls. “‘No, we’ve got no room for you here I’m afraid. We can’t support you.’”

Paul’s ex-wife was arrested within a week and formally charged after five months, originally with the offence of grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent (section 18), then reduced to GBH without intent (section 20) – a far less serious offence, which makes the harm “accidental”.

“Even though she was standing over me wielding this hairdryer and smacking my head in with it and hitting me between the legs, the Court felt that the intent wasn’t there to do serious harm, or to actually kill me.” The final, shortened sentence was set to 16 months, half of which was suspended.

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