WARNING: This article discusses mental and physical abuse.
A male domestic violence survivor shares his harrowing experience and what it’s like trying to get support in Aotearoa and the issues he still faces. Katie Harris reports.
Late one night two years ago, Tim* says he awoke to the weight of his former partner on top of him, squeezing at his neck.
This wasn’t the first time he claimed to have been battered by Jase*, and despite breaking up in 2020, Tim said he’s still dealing with unwanted online contact, harassment and alleged property destruction.
“I was constantly looking over my shoulder, and living on edge, I’d be shopping and I’d be trying to look around corners before I walked around them just in case I bump into him. Like, it was just insane.”
There were red flags at the start, nothing too serious, but he noticed them and said back then he just didn’t care.
Around 18 months into their relationship instances of what he describes as physical abuse began.
“I regularly had a black eye, I was beaten up, quite regularly.”
The Herald has viewed multiple images provided by the man showing bruising on his body and face, which he claimed was a result of the abuse.
It was always sparked by something Tim had done wrong, he alleged, like having a shower without him or not cooking him dinner, that would blow up into alleged physical abuse.
When he didn’t make Jase coffee one morning, Tim claimed his ex killed his cat.
Domestic violence against women is widely reported, and current statistics estimate around one in three New Zealand women experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
However, data on male victims is much more sparse.
University of Canterbury senior lecturer Jacinta Cording said official New Zealand statistics show just 10 per cent of victims are male, however, she claims if the measurement wasn’t biased and removed barriers for men, it becomes a lot closer to 50/50.
“If you look at the Christchurch longitudinal study, the Christchurch Health and Development study, where they show equal, if not perhaps slightly higher male victimisation amongst their cohort.”
As Tim’s relationship progressed, he got worn down, he started to think he really did deserve what was happening.
To family and friends, he tried to explain away the bruises, claiming they were from an accident. Slowly Tim began withdrawing from everyday life.
At one point, the now 27-year-old said the only places he could go were his garden, Mitre 10 and The Warehouse for gardening supplies.
“That was sort of all I was allowed to do, other than work.
“He was trying to convince me that the only person I could rely on, and the only person I could trust, was him. But in the f***ed up place I was in at the time I believed him.”
For years this continued. Tim’s self-worth was completely extinguished, replaced by the fear of violence and emotional abuse.
Then, almost overnight, he said something changed.
He committed to getting stronger, starting his old hobbies again and spending less time with Jase.
Finally, just before the first lockdown in 2020, he ended the relationship.
But two years on both Tim and his new partner claim they are still facing harassment – and it hasn’t been taken seriously.
“I don’t feel safe, I’ve considered selling the house and moving so he doesn’t know where we are. One of the thoughts I’ve had is what if someone’s house sitting or feeding the cats while we’re away and he comes in and attacks them.”
The Herald has viewed aggressive messages sent to his current partner which appear to be from the man, some implying he knew where the pair were, another claiming the ex had legally changed his last name so it was the same as Tim’s.
“One of them was like, I want to rip you open and sh** on your carcass, and there’s one about dying from cancer, it was just like horrible and it kind of went on for months,” his partner said.
Both Tim and his partner told the Herald things escalated last October after they arrived home and discovered Tim’s whole flower garden, backyard and heat pump unit had been ripped out.
While the man wasn’t charged the pair said a neighbour’s camera captured part of a vehicle around the time which was the same as his, and he’d allegedly posted on social media showing followers he was in the area.
Throughout this whole period, the young men said they have had to fight to be listened to by authorities.
“I had to stand in the rain for nearly an hour banging on windows and doors of the local police station for them to eventually let me in and thankfully I got hold of the family violence unit.”
During one conversation with police, Tim claimed he was told they couldn’t help him unless Jase physically turned up at his house.
“I was like, excuse me, this man’s [sick], he’s mentally unhinged, he has access to firearms and you want me to wait until I see him. The next time I see him I might have a bullet in my head.”
The process of getting the right support was “horrendous”, according to Tim, who said it felt like no one was listening.
His partner said some of the police call centre workers they liaised with took their case “as a joke”, despite their claim that the man had access to firearms.
“I don’t know if it was a gender thing or a gay thing or if the system is broken or if they’re understaffed or busy, I don’t know. But I do know the system seems very much concerned about protecting the criminals and the police in some ways seem to be more worried about whether they can get a conviction or not than actually helping the victims,” Tim said.
Male Survivors Aotearoa chair Phillip Chapman, who is also a director of The Male Room Inc which deals with both sides of domestic violence, said most clients tell him they aren’t believed when they report domestic abuse.
“They just don’t get coverage much, no one writes about this stuff because it’s seen as against the current climate, of mainly men as perpetrators.”
Chapman said this makes coming forward difficult, and men are often not welcomed “at the table” to talk about domestic violence.
He told the Herald many men that come in have been physically abused by a partner for years but have never told anyone.
“Other men come in and don’t see it as abuse, I say has she ever hit you, ‘nah mate mate, well a slap or she threw a cup at me once but it missed’, so I don’t think men have that same perception [of what it is].
“Domestic violence is domestic violence we want to support women who are the victims of that and we want more support for the men who are victims of that.”
In a statement, harm reduction and prevention manager Inspector Natasha Allan told the Herald police take family harm very seriously and have continually evolved their approach to this.
“Anyone, regardless of gender identity, sexuality, or ethnicity, should be encouraged to report family harm matters to police.”
Allan said police encourage anyone who feels they have not received this level of service to let them know so that it can be investigated.
If someone believes they are a victim of family harm she said it was important they seek help and support.
“If you suspect someone close to you is a victim of family harm or feel something is not right, it’s okay to act on it – you could save a life. If there is immediate danger, we urge you to contact police by phoning 111 immediately.”
Cording told the Herald men were less likely to come forward if they are victimised because of a range of factors, including a fear of not being believed or previously having negative experiences when disclosing abuse.
“We’ve also got that toxic masculinity stuff, so, they can feel like it would make them sound weak if they’re victims of this type of crime.”
On top of this, she said men sometimes aren’t taken seriously in the criminal justice system when they do come forward.
“Arrest rates, prosecution rates, sentences, all those kinds of things are much lower when it’s a male victim of intimate partner violence. So that means even if they do come forward quite a lot of the time it’s not recorded in our official statistics.”
Domestic violence can cause multiple mental health issues for survivors, she said, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and PTSD in victims, as well impacting their self-esteem and relationships.
A lack of support services, in particular refuges for male victims, is also a significant issue facing survivors, she believed.
“I’ve heard anecdotally from men that I’ve spoken to, that they’ve tried calling family violence helplines and they’ve been told explicitly we only work with women. So yeah they can be turned away when they do try and seek help.”
Cording cited the period just before and after separating as a particularly risky time for domestic violence survivors.
“Especially with those psychological forms of violence or those more severe violence, it’s very common for people to persist after their partner has left, and that’s why ex-partners are covered under our domestic violence legislation.”
Prior to the garden incident, there was already a trespass order in place, but Tim said they were able to get a protection order put in without notice.
However, just last month images seen by the Herald show the man had continued contacting Tim by tagging him in a social media story, therefore in Tim’s view breaking the protection order.
However, even just getting the protection order in place initially felt like a victory for Tim, who for years said he has been living in fear, and nervous to be home alone knowing the man could come back at any time.
Just this weekend Tim said he was informed by police that they were unable to reach his ex-partner, therefore, they were unable to interview him regarding the incident.
“It’s just gutting, it’s like he’s going to slither out of something once again.”
Despite facing ongoing harassment, Tim doesn’t want to be silenced.
His motivation for sharing his story came recently after he received a direct message from a young man who was dating his ex.
“I just don’t want history to repeat itself.”
*Names have been changed to protect Tim’s identity
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Male Survivors Aotearoa New Zealand
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111
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