Belfast Boxing Club offers free fitness classes to male victims of domestic violence

A boxing club in east Belfast is offering fitness classes focused on men who have been victims of domestic violence to encourage men to talk more about their experiences.

A survey of 60 respondents by the Men’s Alliance NI domestic violence charity found that more than 80% identified depression as a direct consequence of domestic violence. Over 70% said they also suffer from anxiety, and 46% said they had suicidal thoughts.

“This is a situation where we really need to help since there are so few men in abusive relationships and many of them feel that this is not something that happens to other men,” said Carey Baxter, chairman of the charity.

“The opportunity offered by the City of Belfast Boxing Academy (CBBA) is a valuable way to help these men on their journey to recovery as they transition from victim to survivor.”

The CBBA coaches hope that by allowing the Men’s Alliance to host special weekly sessions at the club, victims and survivors can improve their mental health, connect and share similar encounters with each other.

Of the 30,000 police reports of domestic incidents between 2019 and 2020, more than a third were from men.

Mr. Baxter said the Men’s Alliance “believes that conversations about domestic violence should not be segregated by gender.” He said: “Our position is to provide any victim of domestic violence, male or female, with help and support at the moment when it is most needed.”

One man whom Men’s Alliance NI helped had previously attempted suicide due to his deteriorating mental health due to past experiences of coercive control and emotional abuse by his ex-wife.

Ian, not his real name, told the Belfast Telegraph about the “difficulties and lack of help for men” in situations like his.

“I was very active in trying to get help and I suppose I was lucky that I could afford to pay for help, but I was on the waiting lists – almost impossible to see – and for a suicidal person. to be put on a waiting list for at least six months, I don’t need to explain it.”

He added that only now, years after the end of the relationship, he realizes how serious the abuse he faced was.

“I am still stunned by the way she treated me. I understood it more when I left. I really don’t know how I got through it all.”

After reading Emotionally Abusive Relationships by Beverly Engel, Yang said he was “shocked to the core” because he felt it described his life.

“It explained everything about gaslighting, projection, coercive behavior, narcissism — them [the abuser] making you doubt yourself. It really was a turning point for me because it explained what it was all about,” he said.

Earlier this month, Hollywood actor Johnny Depp won a multimillion-dollar US lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard after a jury ruled that a 2018 Washington Post article in which she claimed she was a victim of domestic violence was libelous.

The case shed light on both men and women who were victims of domestic violence.

During the trial, Depp revealed that he himself had experienced domestic violence.

Since the case ended, many male victims have spoken out about their experiences with abusive partners, and they believe this is a key moment in helping to end the stigmatization of men who speak up.

Although Yang said he’s only heard “bits and pieces” of the lawsuit, he too thinks the public’s attention to the case will shed light on male victims of domestic violence—for the better. In an attempt to offer advice to those who might be interested in his story, he added: “You can’t advise people to end their marriage, but they should understand that if they behave like this, then they are dealing with a narcissist. This will never change.”

Yang also encouraged all male victims of domestic violence to contact Men’s Alliance NI on their website and Facebook page @MANiSupportGroupNI, which has over 1,100 members from across NI.

Those who are interested can attend the new weekly classes at CBBA from 7:30 pm every Thursday night.