Back in March, before the COVID-19 outbreak came along and swiftly changed the world as we know it, we hosted our Men Speak Out conference, sharing important key messages and real life experiences to a packed room of more then 250 people.
That event now feels like it was a lifetime ago given the drastic changes taking place around us; even the mere suggestion of having more than two people in a 2 metre space is unthinkable these days! But now, our Men Speak Out message is actually more important today than ever before.
There has been an extremely alarming rise in the need for domestic abuse support services across the world during the coronavirus outbreak and the reality of victims being on lockdown with potentially dangerous perpetrators, is inevitably leading to a huge surge in referrals.
We need the help and support of men who are willing to speak out, to be an ally and positively challenge negative comments and behaviours towards women and girls, pushing this often taboo topic firmly into the public arena.
Many stereotypes are ingrained into several of our societal structures, beliefs and traditions. This can lead to unacceptable behaviours such as coercive control, sexual abuse, so-called honour killings, forced marriages and more.
Luke Hart is a domestic abuse survivor, White Ribbon Ambassador and Refuge champion. At our Men Speak Out event, Luke shared his own, personal experiences of coercive and controlling behaviour after his father brutally murdered his mother and sister in 2016.
To the outside world, his father was well respected family man. Luke, his mother and his two siblings knew better and were secretly living a life ruled by coercive control at the hands of his father. There was never any violence until Luke and his brother Ryan successfully helped his mother and sister escape; four days later, his father followed them to a nearby leisure centre and murdered both women before killing himself.
As horrific as Luke’s experience is, it’s not actually uncommon and many women are living in similar situations. After gaining an understanding of what coercive control is and the damage caused, Luke now spends his time urging others to educate themselves on the complexities and signs of domestic abuse and discusses why we all should be taking responsibly to help make a stand.
We also heard from several other speakers at Men Speak Out about both their professional and personal experiences, included Chris Green from White Ribbon UK.
You see, domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate. It could be happening to someone you work with, someone in your family or someone you know could be abusing their partner or family member.
In lockdown, victims may find themselves with even less opportunities than before to access help and perpetrators are likely to be using this climate to exert even more control over victims, escalating the very real threat.
It’s also important to remember that there is never, ever, an excuse to inflict abuse on another human being; the additional pressure caused by the coronavirus outbreak and lock down does not cause people to abuse – abusers do and they are solely responsible for their own behaviour.
Men must start to open up those important conversations and we are here to help you do that. If you’d like to learn more about the ways you can stand up and help us tackle domestic abuse, you can download our handy five point toolkit here: https://safenet.org.uk/resources/