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Survivor of domestic abuse speaks out at conference

Posted 20th December 2023

“I am a survivor of domestic abuse.”

The brave words announced by Lee Marks as he urged domestic abuse support organisations in Essex to remember men can be victims of domestic abuse, too.

Mr Marks was among the speakers sharing their lived experiences at the Diverse Experiences of Domestic Abuse conference hosted by the Southend, Essex & Thurrock Domestic Abuse Board (SETDAB).

SETDAB provides advice and information on services for those affected by domestic abuse.

The conference, at Chelmsford City Racecourse, brought together victim-survivors and the many support services available.

Mr Marks told how, in a previous relationship, he was first subjected to name-calling and being expected to do everything for his partner, before things escalated and he found himself being tricked into thinking he was losing his mind when his car keys kept being shifted around the house, and shouldering £18,000 of debt when his then partner failed to turn up to sign paperwork to share the financial burden.

On separating, Mr Marks’ ex’s parting comments were: “How could I ever be attracted to anyone like you, you disgust me.”

It was not until he attended a support group with a friend and was asked to tick scenarios that he had experienced that he realised he was a victim of domestic abuse.

He said: “I want to raise awareness that men are victims of domestic abuse, too, and more so than people think. Despite what some may believe, the very real truth is that domestic abuse is not a gendered crime, with men making up an estimated third of all victims. We talk about it being a gendered crime and yes, two-thirds of victims are women, but we cannot ignore the one-third that are men as they need support, as well.

“Events like this conference raise awareness and get people thinking and starting to have conversations and break down those barriers. I go up and down the country with my story. These opportunities are really important as these are the people who delivering the support services who we need to get this information out to.”

Mr Marks has since devoted his life to supporting other men living with domestic abuse and writing Break the Silence – A Support Guide for Male Victims of Domestic Abuse.

Having also earned a Masters in Understanding Domestic and Sexual Violence, he has spoken with men who have shared their stories about why they do not report their partners, heard about the experiences of those who have reported crimes – including some being told by police officers to “man up and go home and sort it out” – and picked up suggestions on how the response men receive can be improved.

The SETDAB conference is held each year to lead into the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is an opportunity to bring people together to build connections and strengthen partnership working, as well as showcasing the work happening across the county in tackling domestic abuse in all its forms, with partner stalls on display.

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