By Marc Mallett
A man who suffered decades of abuse from his wife in a loveless marriage has spoken of how he almost resorted to taking his own life, and how he found solace in a support group for men who have suffered similar experiences.
The Men's Alliance support group meets in the City of Belfast Boxing Academy in the east of the city.
While the exercise is beneficial, here the metaphorical boxing gloves are set aside and those attending are given the chance to share their experiences of domestic abuse.
Martin - not his real name - spoke of his experience.
"The stories individually sound so trivial but when you put all of those pieces of that jigsaw together that's not a very nice picture," he told UTV.
"I did make an attempt to take my own life because, I just had lost all hope. But that was probably my light bulb moment when I thought, this isn't love, you don't hurt those that you love."
Martin was told by his ex-wife he was useless. She also invented fake stories claiming his friends and even his own family believed he was useless too. Something Martin himself started to believe.
"I was at my breaking point," he said.
That breaking point pushed him to trying to take his own life.
"And my son came from the house squealing. And I just...I got...that was it. It was horrible for them.
"I tried to talk to her many times. I wrote it down on paper....she just said 'not another of your letters,' I was mentally unstable, according to her."
Martin's story is all too familiar an occurrence nowadays.
Domestic abuse where the victim is a man has more than doubled in the last 10 years, going from just over 2,200 recorded incidents in 2010/11 to more than 5,500 in 2020/21.
Of the more than 18,000 recorded incidents of domestic abuse in 2020/21 - almost a third of the victims were male.
Men's Alliance NI is a support organisation dedicated to helping male victims of domestic abuse. While its private support group on Facebook has around 1,200 members, almost all of them - victims of domestic abuse.
Carey Baxter, from the organisation, says while a lot of work still needs to be done to tackle the stigma men feel in coming forward, a lot more work needs to be done to tackle the societal problem of domestic abuse as a whole.
Martin added: “You feel alone. But also you have nowhere to turn to. I think a lot of people end up in their grave because of it. And there's a massive need for men, as there is equally for women who are abused, there's a big lack of availability of help out there.
"Then there's a fear that you'll lose your children. There's a fear of losing your home. The fear, financially."
"My children were robbed of a father because that was going on all through their childhood. The children have told me they had a very unhappy childhood. And that's something that I will take to my grave because that was the last thing I ever wanted. Even before we had them, I wanted my children to have a good childhood, a happy home."
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