Warning: this article contains details that some readers may find upsetting
One in six men will suffer domestic abuse at the hands of their partner, with an estimated 30 men killed in the UK each year because of domestic violence.
According to worrying data from the ManKind Initiative, men are more than three times as likely than women to keep quiet about being abused by their partner and may suffer for years before seeking help.
Without enough public awareness or signposting to guide them, men living through the nightmare of domestic abuse are often left unsure of where to turn for help.
@bbcthree documentary Abused by my Girlfriend is one of the most moving, disturbing and important shows of the year. Airs on February 19, @BBCOne. Recommended viewing and kudos to those who helped save lives.
— Roger Crow – Features (@RogerCrow) February 9, 2019
22-year-old Alex Skeel, from Bedfordshire, was subjected to five years of severe emotional and physical abuse by his girlfriend Jordan Worth, a case so appalling, one officer described it as the worst he’d ever encountered.
Showing remarkable bravery, Alex has now come forward to share his story of survival, through new BBC documentary, Abused By My Girlfriend.
The programme tells Alex’s story through his own words. We also hear from his loving friends and family members, and well as the heroic, quick thinking police officer who saved Alex’s life.
An often harrowing watch, this must-see doc devastatingly illustrates how a partner’s controlling or jealous behaviour can rapidly escalate to violence and cruelty, leaving the victim feeling trapped and fearful for their life.
Special Thank you goes to @Niamh_Kenn – who made the easiest decision of my life by far the best decision 😊💪
— Alex Skeel (@SkeelAlex) February 17, 2019
During their years together, Jordan beat Alex with glass bottles, hammers and planks of wood. This escalated to her cutting Alex with knives and scalding him with boiling water, leaving him with third degree burns. His injuries were explained away as being self-inflicted.
Jordan kept Alex away from concerned family and friends for long periods, and exacted a terrible, intense control over every aspect of his life.
Jordan’s coercive behaviour infiltrated everything from Alex’s clothes to his social media accounts, and his choice to go out to work. She even prevented him from sleeping in his own bed and restricted his food intake, leading him to lose five stone in weight.
Not only was Alex scared for his own safety, he also feared for their two young children, making him one of many such fathers in this situation. According to statistics from ManKind, the top reason for a man staying in an abusive relationship is out of concern for the children (89 per cent).
Once Alex was able to finally ask for help – malnourished, scarred and badly wounded – medics described him as being just ten days away from death. His extensive injuries were horrific, and as one family member in the documentary put it, ‘he didn’t even smell alive’.
Great to be at #menshealthmatters2019 in Exeter today with great colleagues for the Blue Light Mens Health Conference. @CrohnsColitisUK @DCPolfed @OfficialECFC @ExeterTurnAroun pic.twitter.com/MR3WhUYKI1
— ManKindInitiative (@ManKindInit) February 15, 2019
In April 2018, Jordan was charged with controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship, wounding with intent, and causing grievous bodily harm. She was given a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence and became the first female offender in the UK to be convicted for coercive control.
Ahead of the documentary’s release, Alex spoke with UNILAD about the need to raise life saving awareness of what male victims of domestic abuse go through each day:
When you go around hospitals, doctors, places like that, universities, public places in general, there’s nothing to suggest where to be signposted to. And if the statistics are right, it’s one in six men. And the statistics are what people know anyway.
So, you know that it’s one in six, why is there not anything for the one in six person that’s walking down the road that could be affected and can’t see anything?
That’s what the main thing is. So if you go into hospitals, like I was, and you’ve been injured because you’ve been hurt by the perpetrator, you don’t ever have the opportunity to feel comfortable to say anything because there’s nothing to support you, on like the wall or something.
I think it’s really important. There needs to be posters like that around public places. I think universities are really important to have it, and hospitals, and GPs, and police stations. In toilets, anything.
I think, to be fair, toilets are quite important because that’s when you are on your own. It sounds stupid, but you are on your own and I’m sure that, I’ve heard from people that I speak to that work in the same sort of field, is that there’s a lot of stuff for women in toilets. But I’ve never, ever seen anything for a man.
The mother of one of our supporters complained and they took the tweet down and have fully apologised – this is good news because it does show a shift and they won't do it again – a few people have asked for it to be shown. It is here: pic.twitter.com/ARuXk90MdE
— ManKindInitiative (@ManKindInit) February 4, 2019
According to ManKind, 27 organisations in the UK offer refuge or safe house provision for male victims of domestic abuse, adding up to a total of 105 spaces.
Out of these 105 spaces, just 31 are specifically allocated for male victims, with the rest being available for men or women. There are currently no London-based refuge or safe houses for men escaping domestic abuse.
Alex told UNILAD:
There is, in the sort of north east and up north and that. But if you look on a map, which I’ve seen, is there’s nothing in London, in the south or the east or anything, there’s nothing. So where I am, there’s nothing like that.
Fortunately I didn’t need to have that, but in my area there’s nothing.
This geographical disparity is significant. ManKind have reported how – in at least 120 incidents in 2010 – a caller to their helpline opted against going to a refuge or safe house, as the distance would mean uprooting their lives, perhaps having to leave behind children and their means of income.
Although improvements have been noted since February 2016 – when there were just 18 organisations with 24 out of 70 spaces dedicated to male victims – it’s clear more provision for men is required, no matter which part of the UK they reside.
— ManKindInitiative (@ManKindInit) January 29, 2019
Following his escape from the abusive relationship, Alex has become a positive role model for other young men who’ve suffered abuse, giving them a public voice and encouraging those still living in fear to come forward.
Now an ambassador for ManKind, Alex gives talks on how to recognise signs of domestic abuse, drawing from his own experiences to educate others and address the harmful stigma often attached to this issue.
Speaking of early warning signs to look out for, Alex told UNILAD:
I suppose in my situation, I was told what clothes to wear, and told, ‘no you’re not allowed to see your friends’, and things like that.
They’re the sort of starting points, so if that sort of happens then it’s not a healthy relationship. So it’s not right.
Alex also gave the following message to those currently experiencing abuse:
They’re not alone. There is people out there that want to support them, and that’s the main thing.
And there are places to go, but at the minute there’s just not enough coverage out there of the places you can go to if you are going through it. And that’s the main issue. People don’t know about signposting places.
Yesterday (Sunday) we supported @skeelalex team @bprtigerxi during a charity football match against @green_machineFC
This event was to support a charity which aims to help male victims of domestic abuse @mankindinit and @macmillancancer pic.twitter.com/OLI1tpuyTj
— Bedfordshire Police (@bedspolice) January 14, 2019
Please #donate on @justgiving and RT, Like and spread the word on this incredibly important issue that we play for – Thanks so much! If you wanna see @Tom_Grennan kick ball then you better come and watch our games from now on!!!!!!!! 😎💛💙 https://t.co/xRZbrxS3Xv
— BPR TIGERS XI (@bprtigersxi) January 27, 2019
An avid footie fan, Alex uses his lifelong sporting passions to open up a dialogue about domestic abuse, helping to create much needed safe spaces for male survivors to talk things over.
Alex is involved with BPR Tigers XI, a Bedford based charity football team which raises money for male victims and spreads awareness through the medium of football. He also manages the BPR Tigers XI Under 18’s team.
In my local area, I think it was the first male group in the area – and I think there’s quite a few around – where there’s safe places for men to talk with other men who have gone through it. And there’s also places where you can speak one to one.
But with the football coaching, I’ve done that, purely really to raise awareness. On the kits, we have the helplines, and everything like that.
So if someone is walking through the park and they’re going through it, it’s sort of like a poster, isn’t it?
Alex is fighting the stigma around male #DomesticAbuse. His partner was the first woman in the UK jailed for coercive and controlling behaviour.
If you recognise the signs of abuse and want to talk, call our confidential Supportline: 08 08 16 89 111.https://t.co/N8U0CMjs5Z
— Victim Support (@VictimSupport) February 18, 2019
Most of the players know what happened, so they’ve been educated through just knowing me anyway. But if anyone asks, you can sort of tell them.
It’s more or less raising awareness through the football and I feel it’s a really good, mutual tool between men because sport is important to a lot of men, or most men.
They might feel safer if there’s a group of twenty 18-year-olds, and the manager is only twenty three, running it, and they are saying it’s okay not to be okay in this situation. They will feel much more comfortable going forward.
Going forward, Alex hopes this powerful documentary will help to emphasise how ‘men are victims too, it’s as simple as that’.
Watch and discuss Abused By My Girlfriend with your mates, with your family, and spark up the sort of urgent conversations we need to be having right now to support men who are still suffering.
Abused By My Girlfriend will be available to watch on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer from 10am on Monday February, 18.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Do not suffer in silence.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.