A young dad has bravely told how he was bullied remorselessly and forced to buy prescription drugs containing opiates for his addicted partner.
Jack, 27, not his real name, and his two-year-old son have now escaped the life of coercive psychological abuse and have found sanctuary in a refuge run by the Domestic Abuse Safety Unit (DASU) North Wales.
He’s hoping that by speaking out he can encourage other men in abusive relationships to come forward and seek help like he did.
After seeing an increase in the number of men seeking help, DASU established a male refuge four years ago and now also has other properties where fathers and their children can be accommodated safely.
According to DASU, the support they received from North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, is vital to sustain the 24/7 service for women, men and their children affected by domestic abuse.
The service is available across Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham and offers advice, support, advocacy as well as access to refuge accommodation.
In addition to the regular funding he provides to organisations who work with abused victims, Mr Jones has now accessed an extra £238,000 from the Ministry of Justice to help them cope with the extra challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, DASU has received an extra £71,400 to support service users and purchase safety screens and signage as well as source personal protection equipment (PPE) and cleaning materials.
After years of torment, Jack says the support he has received from DASU has helped give him and his son a new future.
He said: “Things haven’t been good for the last few years. My partner did throw things at me and could be violent but the issue was the mental stress I was always under. We met when I was 21 or 22 and we were together for five years.
“When we met she was herself in a refuge. She had an abusive partner who treated her really badly.
“They had been together for 12 years. She was controlled to such an extent she had no idea how to use a bank card or how to claim benefits or do anything for herself, I had to show her.
“Her partner exerted control over everything and I think that’s how she thought relationships should work.”
He added: “She was addicted to prescription drugs and continually forced me to borrow money to buy her what she needed. She’d take anything which contained opiates.
“I’ve seen her take 15 Tramadol, a pain killer, in one go. She’d tell me she was leaving me and taking our son with her or if I wouldn’t get her the tablets she needed she’d have to sleep with someone who would. She’d spend £20 or £40 a day on tablets.
“She’d had three kids before we met and had our own son but they don’t live with her. All I cared about was our son and keeping him safe and happy. I just couldn’t take the abuse anymore.
“I’d tried so hard to get her off the tablets but nothing worked. I was going to work one morning when she demanded I get her some Pro Plus and Tramadol tablets. I told her I had to go to work but she just said well when you come home I’ll be in bed with another man who will get them for me.
“I was just thinking about our son and ended up going to a family member and borrowing some money to get the tablets but then she wanted some others. I ended up really late for work.
“She had me going to people I hardly knew to borrow money for tablets and I ended up banned from some chemists. I was also constantly worried about leaving our son in her care.
“I’d go to work and he’d be in his pyjamas and the curtains would be closed and I’d come home and nothing would have changed. She was a danger to him as far as I was concerned and he is all I cared about.
“I thought refuges were only for women and had no idea men could live in one and get help. I imagined the only place for me would be a hostel and I wasn’t sure that was going to be good for my son.
“I got in touch with DASU and didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the refuge or how I was going to care for my son. But it was such a massive relief, it was so calm and the support I received was just fantastic.
“I’m still in the refuge but they are working to rehouse me and my son. I’ve had to give up work so I can look after him but it doesn’t matter for now at least he is safe.”
“My hope now is, once we get our own home, I can work with children, maybe by fostering so I can help others, like my own son, who have had a raw deal.
“I think it’s important to realise domestic abuse isn’t always about violence it’s about physiological abuse too and men can be victims just like women. Without the support of DASU I don’t know where we’d be.”
DASU Regional Refuge Manager Emma Glover began looking at setting up North Wales’ first male refuge in 2008 and has seen demand soar over the years.
She said: “We were then Deeside Women’s Aid but changed to DASU once we began offering help to male clients.
“Men seek refuge for exactly the same reasons women do, to escape a violent partner or emotional, sexual or financial abuse. And we are now seeing more and more referrals of men with children needing refuge.
“The perception is that a refuge is a glorified hostel but that isn’t the case. It’s really important there is a warm and homely feel to the place of refuge.
“Jack has done brilliantly since coming into the refuge with his son. In the very near future he will have a place of his own and he and his son can rebuild their lives”
Emma added financial support DASU has received from the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner had been vital, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “When we first went into lock down it went eerily quiet. But people were locked in and as soon as it eased there were a lot of calls for help and support. The situation seriously intensified but we were ready.
“The support of the Police and Crime Commissioner has been fantastic. Without the additional funds it would have been very difficult. And he realises there are men out there who need support and a place of refuge if they are to escape abusive relationships.”
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “Domestic abuse in all its forms is an abhorrent crime and tackling it is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan.
“It’s vital we understand there are men, like Jack, who need support, it isn’t just women suffering abusive relationships.”
Anybody needing support can contact DASU via their website www.dasunorthwales.co.uk/contact or by ringing 01244 830436 (Flintshire), 01745 814494 (Denbigh),01492 534705 (Colwyn) or 01978 310203 (Wrexham).