dpa international

Timo will never forget the first time his wife attacked him, just a month after they were married.

“My wife slapped me and came at me with her fists.” She would go on to beat and humiliate him in their home for almost 20 years, he says.

“Domestic violence against men is a taboo subject for many people,” adds Timo, who refused to share his real name or allow himself to be photographed for this story. “That leads to prejudice and people not believing me.”

In Germany, where he lives, there were 240,547 cases of domestic violence nationwide in 2022, says the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate alone, there were 13,573 victims in the same year according to the police crime statistics (PKS).

A clear majority of 70.07% (9,511) of the victims were female, while 29.93% (4,062) were male.

Nationwide, a year earlier, 3,749 men suffered domestic violence, data shows.

But the true number of male victims of violence is assumed to be higher; many cases go unreported, according to Bernd Seifried, adviser and couples therapist at the SAFE counselling centre for men in the south-western city of Mainz.

Men are often seen as the “stronger sex” which many find hard to reconcile with the role of victim.

Harder still, “the main problem is the shame threshold.”

“Men often don’t have anyone in their social environment with whom they can talk about their problems,” says Norbert Ries, adviser and social education worker at the counselling centre for men and young fathers in the nearby city of Ludwigshafen.

Not having anyone to talk to doesn’t mean the men don’t have any friends, he stresses.

Timo, 48, also concealed his suffering from those around him and withdrew from social life over the years of his marriage.

The fear of being dismissed as a whiner or facing questions like “What kind of man are you?” was too great, he says. “I had given up on life.”

There are only three contact points for men suffering domestic violence in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, each with an adviser offering professional support.

Germany, with a population of 80 million, only has 12 shelters for men and their children nationwide, says the Rhineland-Palatinate state Ministry of Family Affairs. They are spread out across five of the country’s 16 federal states, meaning no such support is available in the remaining 11 states.

But more and more men want help. Ries says the number of men seeking advice has increased significantly in recent years. “Hardly a week goes by without us receiving new enquiries,” says Peter Machetanz, adviser and social education worker at the counselling centre run by the Social Service for Catholic Men (SKM) in Trier.

The increasing demand is pushing the counselling centres to their limits. “There will soon be a waiting list, just like there is for therapy,” says Machetanz.

The lack of support services for men affected by domestic violence is due to the funding bodies’ reluctance, Seifried says. “You first need to know what the local needs are.”

Since mid-2021, the SAFE counselling centre in Mainz has been the only facility to receive financial support from the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Family Affairs.

It is a pilot project aiming to assess the need for possible further support services.

Meanwhile contact centres in Ludwigshafen and Trier wind up having to fend for themselves financially, say Ries and Machetanz. “The men’s counselling centres often rely on donations or volunteer advisers,” says Ries.

For men suffering domestic abuse, counselling should remain free of charge, says Machetanz. His counselling activities will be funded by the diocesan association in Trier until mid-2025.

After that, it is unclear whether he’ll be able to secure follow-up funding. “I can’t yet say how things will continue,” he says.

To combat and prevent violence against women and domestic violence, the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe human rights treaty ratified by Germany in 2017, entered into force nationwide in 2018. The convention mainly relates to protecting women, as they are disproportionately affected, says Nils Dettki, spokesman for the Ministry of Family Affairs in Mainz.

When it comes to boys and men, the treaty merely contains an “encouragement” but no obligation for the contracting parties to take measures to protect and support them.

Rhineland-Palatinate is currently working on an action plan focussing on the protection of women. “However, the state government is also focussing on men affected by domestic violence and is supporting them,” says Dettki.

So far, €54,000 ($59,000) is earmarked in the 2024 budget for measures to combat violence against men. From December, Rhineland-Palatinate also wants to join the nationwide help hotline “Violence against men” to provide anonymous help and support.

Women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, and many continue to struggle to get proper support. For men suffering violence and abuse, issues such as shame, and the fear of prejudice and disbelief, mean many struggle on in silence, reluctant to seek help. Fabian Sommer/dpaWomen are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, and many continue to struggle to get proper support. For men suffering violence and abuse, issues such as shame, and the fear of prejudice and disbelief, mean many struggle on in silence, reluctant to seek help. Fabian Sommer/dpa

Women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, and many continue to struggle to get proper support. For men suffering violence and abuse, issues such as shame, and the fear of prejudice and disbelief, mean many struggle on in silence, reluctant to seek help. Fabian Sommer/dpa

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