Work by USW researchers guiding support for male abuse victims

A new programme of support for men affected by domestic abuse has been developed and is being piloted across Mid and South West Wales prior to a wider roll-out in 2019.

The ‘Compass Programme’ is being delivered by specialist domestic abuse agency Calan DVS. Based in Llandarcy near Neath, Calan is currently supporting increasing numbers of men across Western Bay and Powys who are reporting the impacts of abuse from a partner within an intimate relationship.

The programme was created in partnership with the University of South Wales (USW) and is thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK. The research was led by Dr Carolyn Wallace and Dr Sarah Wallace at USW and PRIME Centre Wales and involved a review of Calan’s previous support programme for men, interviews with a range of men affected by domestic violence and abuse (DVA), and DA practitioners working within the sector. 

Tackling DVA is a high priority for both UK and Welsh Governments, with the 2015 ‘Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act’ designed to protect those experiencing DA. Significantly, the Act applies to all types of abuse within all intimate relationships and seeks to protect men as well as women.

Calan DVS’ understanding of the scale of DVA against men and the lack of a tailored system of support, led to the charity approaching USW for the literature review to be carried out. The ‘Compass Programme’ report, prepared by Dr Carolyn Wallace & Dr Sarah Wallace, highlights the fact that DVA services are primarily designed to address the needs of female victims, excluding other dynamics that may apply between intimate partners. However, the report also identifies a changing landscape in DVA provision, with some Welsh Women’s Aid agencies now supporting men as part of their core function.

“Statistics show that around 1.2m women and 700,000 men experience domestic abuse, but support services for men are much less prevalent than those for women,” Dr Sarah Wallace said.

“The reasons why DVA is not reported, by both men and women, are numerous, including fear of retaliation, embarrassment or shame, a lack of trust or confidence in the police, difficulty in recognising and accepting abusive behaviours, and the effect on children.

“However, the issue of underreporting is even more pronounced amongst men. They fear appearing unmanly, shame, embarrassment, and a failure to live up to masculine ideals. This was the experience of the men we interviewed, who felt that they needed help to get to the root of these feelings.” 

Through understanding the different challenges faced by male victims of DA, USW was able to develop the ‘Compass Programme’, which was approved by Calan in November 2018 and which is already making a difference to the lives of male service-users.

“What we also discovered in interviews with Calan DVS staff and DVA survivors is that men who have experienced domestic abuse may be facing various crises or have a chaotic lifestyle, and their concentration levels may be low. It’s important that the timing of the support fit in with the individuals’ experiences,” Dr. Sarah Wallace said.

The ‘Compass Programme’ is made up of 13 micro-sessions that are best delivered to groups of men. The programme uses a safe space for male survivors to talk about DVA – with a specific focus on how masculinity can influence responses – and help them recognise the signs and behaviours of DVA, and where and how to seek help. It helps participants get a sense of value, purpose and achievement; and nurtures self-esteem, self-efficacy, personal resilience and well-being.

Calan DVS Project Manager Mike Dix-Williams added: “Calan DVS is committed to ensuring that all men affected by DVA feel able to come forward and talk about their situation to experienced staff offering high quality support”

“We know that DVA against men is a seriously underreported crime, and we know that 713,000 men were reported to have been a victim of one or more types of DVA. It begs the question how many more men are actually out there that are suffering in silence. We need to offer an easy to access programme of support that is tailored to the unique challenges that men face – we think that the ‘Compass Programme’ goes a long way to achieving this.

“We are really pleased to have worked in conjunction with USW on creating the ‘Compass Programme’ and their contribution will ensure that Calan DVS are able to help more men affected by DVA in the future.”