Whilst abuse of women is widely known about, it’s not widely recognised that men can be victims too. Finn’s story highlights the lasting impact that this lack of understanding and empathy can have.
I’m a 38 year old male student nurse. My life is pretty good at the moment, but things could have been very different.
Rewind to 2008. I was in a relationship with a woman and we had a young child together. I was also the victim of domestic abuse. Yes, you heard that right, I was the victim of domestic violence.
The shame I felt was immense and I didn’t know how to speak out; I didn’t think this sort of thing happened to men. After several false starts, I eventually mustered up the courage to speak to my line manager at work, opening up to him about everything that I was being subjected to at home. It was the hardest, most difficult thing I’ve ever had to talk about.
At the end of this outpouring of emotion, I looked up and him and – he laughed at me.
He didn’t really say anything but I knew that he thought I was a pathetic excuse for a man. This just reaffirmed what I thought of myself, the emotional abuse had stripped away my self-worth and confidence.
It was a fact, I really couldn’t talk to anybody, believing I’d get the same reaction. And so the abuse continued and I went into self-destruct mode. I started missing work, struggling to leave the house because I didn’t feel worthy enough. I had to get out of the relationship but I didn’t know how.
I had no money of my own and so, in a moment of madness and out of desperation I claimed for some hours at work that I didn’t work and also some benefits that I wasn’t entitled to, hoping to get enough money together to leave the relationship. I was due to start university the following year to train as a nurse and that’s all I clung onto.
That one moment of stupidity cost me my job. I was dismissed and also received a police caution. During both my disciplinary and the police interview I wanted to tell them about what was going on in my private life but once again the thought of being laughed at stopped me.
But worse was to come.
I’d started my nursing degree and only been on the course for a couple of weeks when I was told that as a result of the police caution my university place was being withdrawn.
As my dreams of a career in nursing disintegrated I somehow found the courage to end the relationship. My son initially stayed with his mother but she soon decided that motherhood wasn’t for her and she wanted to pursue her career, and so he came to live with me. This was the turning point for me, I knew I had to make a life for myself and my child. I kept the shame I felt about my caution and the domestic violence I’d suffered buried deep and just resigned myself to the fact that I’d never be able to carve out a career for myself as a nurse.
I threw myself into bringing up my son and started working in a care home to support us both. I gained numerous qualifications and got promoted to manager, but this wasn’t what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a nurse.
I knew deep down that I’d never be able to truly move on with my life until I’d got closure on the past. So I arranged to meet with somebody from the HR department of the company I’d been sacked from in 2008. I was incredibly anxious, worried that the response I’d get would be really negative or worse still, I’d be laughed out of the room. But I did what I should have done at the time and explained the reason why I’d needed to claim for hours I hadn’t worked. To my utter amazement, the HR manager was incredible telling me that I should have spoken to them at the time, that my domestic situation would have been considered as mitigating circumstances and I would in all likelihood have kept my job. For the first time in ages I started to see that I wasn’t a bad person.
When I’d arranged to meet with HR all I wanted was recognition that the way my line manager had treated me was wrong. However, they actually went further than that offering my a number of voluntary roles to improve my employability and eventually taking me on in a paid position.
My confidence grew and I began thinking again about becoming a nurse. Wanting to find out what my chances were of being accepted onto a nursing degree course, I found the details of Unlock online. After giving them details of my caution, the advisor at the end of the phone told me that my caution was ‘protected’ and would be filtered from my DBS certificate – I didn’t need to disclose it at all.
Two years ago, I completed my university application form and after a short interview I was accepted onto the course. A couple of weeks later I received an application pack from the NHS trust where I would be doing my work placement. The form asked whether I had any unprotected cautions or convictions and I proudly ticked the ‘No’ box.
I’ve just finished the first year of my nursing degree and I’m loving it. I’ve started to believe in myself again and taken control of my life. I’ve spent years beating myself up over the mistakes I made but at long last I feel able to move on.
In many ways, the world is a different place to how it was in 2008 when I told my line manager that I was a victim of domestic abuse. However, the popular image of this type of domestic violence is still based on the gender stereotype of a male villain and a female victim and incredibly, laughter is still a common response to male domestic violence.
By Finn (name changed to protect identity)