Older men who experience domestic abuse facing significant challenges and barriers when seeking help and support, says Commissioner
A new report from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has found that older men experiencing domestic abuse face significant challenges and barriers when seeking help and support, which means they may be unable to escape abusive relationships, putting them at risk of physical and psychological harm.
The report1, published today (23 August), has also found that men may be reluctant to seek support due to the stigma of being a male victim of abuse, and that the small number of domestic abuse services targeted specifically at men are under-resourced, meaning that the support they are able to provide is often very limited.
The research on which the report is based is part of a wider programme of work being undertaken by the Commissioner focused on ending the abuse of older people, which includes partnership work with over 30 members of the Commissioner’s Stopping Abuse Action Group2, which she established in 2020 to take forward action to improve services and support throughout Wales for older people experiencing abuse.
Alongside recognising that the vast majority of people who experience abuse are women, and the need for action and increased resources to ensure older women escaping abuse can get the support and services they need, engagement with action group members also highlighted concerns about the very limited evidence available about men’s experiences of abuse, even though it is estimated that 1 in 4 victims of domestic abuse is male, with older men at greater risk.3
The research was conducted on the Commissioner’s behalf by Opinion Research Services (ORS), who captured evidence through in-depth interviews with male survivors of abuse aged 50+, as well as professionals working across a range of domestic abuse and other public services based throughout Wales.
The report examines the different ways men may experience abuse, the barriers and challenges men face when trying to access support, and the ways in which services and support in Wales could be improved.
The report also includes quotes from the male survivors who took part, together with more detailed case studies, to illustrate what they went through and the many difficulties they faced when seeking support.
The report calls for action from the Welsh Government and other public bodies to improve services and support through raising awareness and improving understanding of older men’s experiences, delivering training to professionals who come into contact with older people so they can recognise abuse and offer appropriate support and improving data and evidence relating to older men’s experiences of domestic abuse to ensure the right policies and services are in place for older men to access the support they need.
Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots CBE, said:
“My heartfelt thanks to all of the older men who took part in the research for talking about the awful experiences they went through so openly and honestly in order to help other men who may find themselves in similar situations by providing crucial evidence for why change and improvements are desperately needed.
“I’d also like to thank ORS for capturing crucial evidence that illustrates the particular ways that abuse may affect older men and the difficulties they can face when seeking help.
“The research findings make clear that men who experience domestic abuse face barriers and challenges every step of the way that can prevent them from getting the support they need, which puts them at significant risk of harm.”
The action being taken in response to the Commissioner’s report will be examined in more detail at a webinar event in October, and will provide organisations working with and for older people throughout Wales with an opportunity to find out more about the ways they can help to ensure that older men who experience abuse can get the support they need.
John, an older male abuse survivor who took part in the research, said:
“I was forced to walk away from my 26 year marriage in 2016.
“In hindsight, I should have done it a lot earlier but was reluctant to do so as firstly, I feared that I would have not been believed and secondly, I was unaware of any support services for male victims. I do not recall ever seeing advertisements directed to male victims of abuse.
“I eventually did get help from an organization who helped me to come to terms with my specific form of abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour which ultimately culminated in violence. It was only at that point that I realised that these circumstances were not unique to me.
“I found that this agency, although really helpful, did not have the resources, financially or personnel wise, to address the male aspect of male domestic abuse.
“In my opinion, more needs to be done to make everyone aware that these services are available (or will hopefully be in the future) for male victims which would encourage them to seek advice and support before it is too late.”
The Commissioner added:
“Much more needs to be done to raise awareness about the scale of this issue and the particular ways that abuse can affect older men to ensure that Wales has the right policies and services in place, and that staff working across our public services are equipped to recognise abuse and connect older men with the right support.
“That’s why it’s crucial that the change I am calling for within the report is delivered and why, as Commissioner, I have already begun working with key stakeholders – including Welsh Government ministers and officials, public bodies in Wales, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales, and the Victims Commissioner for England and Wales – to take forward the action needed and improve the support available to older men who are experiencing or at risk of abuse.”
ENDSRead the Commissioner's report here