A new county-wide campaign to support gay, bisexual and trans men when it comes to domestic abuse is up and running.
And the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird gave her backing to the K(NO)W MORE initiative from Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services (NDAS) at the launch event in Morpeth.
It will include leaflets, stickers and posters being distributed throughout Northumberland, an online campaign with dating site Gaydar and a specific Facebook page with help and advice.
The thinking behind it is to help men in a same-sex relationship to better understand how things can go wrong and where they can turn to if they suffer abuse.
A gay service user supported by NDAS, Joseph, spoke about his experiences and urged those who have concerns to seek out the information and come forward for help if necessary.
He is not originally from the UK and entered into his first gay relationship five years ago. He split from his partner at the start of 2016.
Joseph said: “It happened gradually and in the last two years of the relationship, it was obvious that something was wrong.
“However, I didn’t know what was happening to me was domestic abuse because I didn’t know what that term was and what it included.
“I was always having to ask my partner permission to do anything and when my circumstances changed and I was looking for a new job, he controlled all my finances and what I was eating.
“For example, he used to look up the price of the cheapest sandwich in the supermarkets and then he’d give me my bus fare and the 99p for my lunch.
“When I came home, I had to show him the bus ticket and the receipt. If I didn’t have them, that would cause a row.
“When we had arguments, he would threaten to tell my family because they are very religious and that made me stay quiet.
“It got to the point where I was very scared of him and I had a mental breakdown.
“I did a search online to find out if there was anyone who could help me and I found details for Stonewall (a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity).
“When I contacted the charity to inform it about what I was going through, I was told to seek help immediately because this was domestic abuse and I was referred to NDAS.
“I spoke to Richard Bliss, the organisation’s men and boys worker, and a plan was put together for leaving the relationship.
“I needed to have somewhere else to live and for that to happen, I had to become a UK citizen. Richard and his team helped with the application and it was successful.
“The other requirement was to report everything that was happening to me, so I could show that I needed alternative housing.
“NDAS provided support for this as well and I was able to successfully move out. My life has changed since then – I’m now in a much better place mentally and I have a full-time job.
“I’m very grateful to the NDAS team and I was very impressed with how they handled things. I genuinely felt they had my back.
“If you sense that something is wrong in the relationship, but are not sure that what you are suffering is classed as abuse, it’s important to speak to NDAS as it has experienced professionals who will help and support you.”
NDAS supports all men and women, including lesbian, bisexual and trans women, but this campaign is particularly aimed at gay, bi and trans-men – all men who have relationships with men, irrespective of the gender they were assigned at birth.
Mr Bliss said: “We came up with the idea of K(NO)W MORE because it brings together two key messages.
“Firstly, that gay, bi and trans men want to know more about violence, harassment and other forms of domestic abuse and secondly, that they want help to say NO MORE to the abuser.”
The awareness campaign will run until March 2017,
Mrs Baird said: “I am pleased to support this excellent new initiative and to be personally here to launch it.
“It is exactly the kind of specialist provision there should be, within the umbrella of support for all victims of domestic abuse that is now available in Northumbria.
“We are sending out a clear message that all victims of domestic abuse can reach out for help and it will be given to them.
“NDAS and the police work closely together, where it is in the interests of victims that they do so, and this excellent relationship will continue to the benefit to all residents of Northumberland.”
For more information about the campaign, call 01434 608030 (9am-4.30pm, Monday to Friday), visit www.nda.services or go to the KNOWMORENDAS page on Facebook.