CW: The following article contains graphic descriptions of domestic violence.
Last week, the BBC documentary Abused By My Girlfriend told the story of domestic abuse victim Alex Skeel. The 23-year-old from Bedford recounted the mental and physical abuse he received at the hands of his partner, Jordan Worth, who became the first woman jailed for coercive and controlling behaviour in the UK.
Alex's story has helped to throw a spotlight on the under-reported issue of male domestic abuse in the UK, leading to calls for greater awareness that men can be victims as well as women. Although domestic violence is clearly an issue that disproportionately affects women, one in three survivors are male, and one in seven men can expect to experience it at some point in their lives.
I spoke to three male victims of domestic abuse to find out how they ended up in abusive relationships, how they managed to break free from their partners and the obstacles they faced when seeking help.
When I first got together with my girlfriend I was head over heels for her, but then cracks started showing a couple of months into the relationship. She’d call me fat, pinch me hard until I bruised and punch me in the chest. When I told her I didn’t like it, she'd say she was only playing or question my manhood.
Over time, minor acts of violence escalated into major ones. One day she kicked me so hard in the hip that I later collapsed at work as a result of it and was taken to hospital. I was on crutches for three weeks afterwards. I didn't tell anybody what was going on and would make up excuses for my injuries because I wanted to protect her.
I eventually threw her out of the flat after she repeatedly punched me in the face, but she kept texting saying that she loved me, so I agreed to take her back. Just after I’d said that we could rekindle our relationship she rang and told me that she’d found someone else and didn’t want anything to do with me. I think she was so obsessed with being in control that she wanted to be the one to end things.
I later phoned the police and reported the abuse, but they didn't take it seriously. They asked why I hadn't just left and said I could have gone at any time. I can't imagine them saying that to a female victim of domestic violence.
It was the perfect marriage to begin with, but then one day I had a disagreement with my wife while we were in town and she kicked me in the nether regions in front of our friends. It was really embarrassing, and also the first of many incidents. Throughout the following years, she regularly kicked, slapped and punched me. She even knocked a few of my teeth out.
I was worried about going to the police in case I got laughed at, but eventually rang them anyway. They gave her a warning and then went away. I thought their words might make things better, but it actually got worse. The turning point came when she stabbed me with a steak knife, puncturing the sack around my heart. I needed surgery and later found out I'd had a 50 percent chance of dying as a result of my injuries.
I told the police what had happened and she was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for wounding with intent. She's since expressed remorse and we're now friends again, but our relationship is well and truly over. There needs to be a greater focus on spreading awareness of male victims of domestic abuse so that people can seek help before they end up in life-threatening situations like the one I was in.
I was initially blown away by my ex-wife. She was attractive, polite and mild-mannered, and extremely wealthy and successful. She was also Southeast Asian, and would cook amazing Asian food. Six months into the relationship she said she'd be more comfortable if we were married. Things were going so well that I thought, 'Why not?'
This was a big mistake, because shortly after we got married she burst into the bathroom with a knife while I was in the shower and thrust the blade forward, attempting to cut off my manhood. I was terrified and had no idea what was going on, but managed to dodge her weapon until she'd calmed down. She apologised, and it became clear that she had mental health issues. She agreed to go to the doctor, who prescribed her Zoloft. I've no idea what was actually wrong with her, but later found out she'd had a traumatic childhood. I think she had a lot of unresolved issues, which made her lash out from time to time.
Everything went back to normal after that, and I assumed the medication had got a grip on things. The next year of our marriage was completely incident-free, and I put the attack to the back of my mind. Then one day my wife dropped the bombshell that her sister had thrown her meds away because they were "Western poison". She accused me of attempting to kill her and started throwing plates at me. I locked myself in the bedroom, barricaded the door and went to sleep.
The next morning, I peeped out into the living room and saw that she was asleep. I tiptoed to the front door, trying my hardest not to wake her, but her eyes suddenly sprang open and she launched herself at me, trying to bite my dick. A neighbour eventually called the police and the officers took her to a friend's place to calm down, but she made her way back to the house and attacked me with an iron. She ran at me, bounced off my body and smashed through the coffee table, cutting herself. With blood squirting out of her, the police initially thought I'd assaulted her, making the assumption that I was the aggressor because I was a man. Fortunately a female officer recognised the situation for what it was and said she thought I was a victim of domestic abuse.
I managed to get my wife to take her meds again and everything was alright for a while, but then she stopped taking them because she didn't like the side effects. The trouble immediately started back up again, with her constantly asking me if I was cheating and asking to smell my dick to see if it smelled of vaginal fluids. Whenever I refused, she'd chase me around the house with a knife. I was embarrassed to tell anybody what was going on because of the stigma surrounding being a male domestic-violence victim.
The last straw came when my wife launched an iron at me one day and it smashed through our chandelier. The police arrived at the house again and I decided that enough was enough. I moved out and never looked back.