Interview: John James Author of From The Darkness
Domestic and emotional abuse against women is widely covered in the press and media, and a myriad of support organisations exist to help women recover from it and rebuild their lives. But what about men who suffer domestic and emotional abuse at the hands of a woman? What support is out there for them?
Domestic and emotional abuse against men is rarely if ever talked about, yet 15% of men aged 16-59 have experienced some sort of domestic abuse, the equivalent of 2.4 million men. 1 in 3 of every (reported) abuse victims are male, and from 2016 to 2017, 13 men died as a result of domestic violence (Mankind).
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what you do?
I was born in Stoke-on-Trent and brought up by a strict dominant mother and a teddy bear of a Dad. I was born with a walking disability that the doctors thought was a habitual way of walking until I was 15 when they found out that my Achilles tendons were too short so I had to have a operation and basically learn to walk again. I worked as a labourer for several years after school until I decided to get a degree, which I did, I achieved a 2.1 honours degree in psychology at University of Worcester where I met my wife. After university I started working in care with severe challenging behaviour. I was married for 18 years, but unfortunately that ended. I met Monica, a Romanian girl, who went on to be a blessing turned nightmare, as I document in my book.
“From The Darkness” comes from your own personal experiences of domestic violence and emotional abuse that you suffered at the hands of your ex-girlfriend. What made you decide to write the book?
I wrote the book because I believed it needed to be written, it’s that simple. Not only did I believe my story needed to be out there, but I also believe that it is the story of many men, some of whom either believe they don’t have a voice or are too ashamed to speak out.
How did your family and friends react when they found out that you are a survivor of domestic and emotional abuse at the hands of a woman?
Abuse is a difficult subject, it’s not black and white and my family and friends don’t really understand. My mum was ‘Get out, if she hits you then leave.’ My friends were the same, either they said “get out” or didn’t comment at all. I believe the ‘get out’ view is widely held, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.
How important is it that awareness is raised of domestic violence and emotional abuse, especially amongst men?
It is always very important to raise awareness of abuse. We have seen how the Me Too movement has given women power to report sexual harassment, well the same spotlight shone on abuse can give the victims power to come forward too, and that is what abuse is about – power. Give the victims their power back. Men especially, because there is still a stigma about a guy getting hit by a girl, I’ve had it myself.
Did you find that you couldn’t access support or wasn’t taken seriously when you reported what happened to you to the authorities?
Well, let me just first say that there have been a lot of great people who were actually helpful in my recovery, but authorities? Not helpful at all. The police have not gotten the proper training to deal with abuse to a man. I felt I was not believed from the beginning. I was told, for instance, that emotional and psychological abuse would not be looked at as it was impossible to prove. I showed them photos of my flat smashed up by my partner and a photo of a bite mark on my hand from her. I even gave them an 11 minute recording of her berating me in the most vile way, and they ignored all of it. My ex was interviewed but it was all dismissed. She said I’d bitten myself and that was good enough for them.
As a man, how did this lack of support make you feel?
Actually, I wasn’t surprised by their attitude, but I was surprised by their defence of her. They even refused to investigate the bite mark, evidence of physical abuse, but they weren’t interested. That did surprise me. Would they have investigated further if I had bitten her? I think so.
Do you think there is work to be done to raise awareness of the fact that domestic and emotional abuse is just as likely to happen to men as to women?
There needs to be a hell of a lot of work to be done in all areas, but especially with male victims. Firstly, there needs to be something done to ensure that emotional abuse and psychological abuse is investigated. The police said that there is nothing that can be done, but all they had to do was look at my medical records and talk to Victim Support to see what I’d been through. Theresa May classified emotional/psychological abuse as a crime, but if the police won’t act then there’s little impact. More awareness needs to be focused on male victims of abuse to help them have the strength to come forward in the first place. I hope my book will be a part of that change.
Do you hope that ‘From The Darkness’ will change the misconception that domestic and emotional abuse doesn’t happen to men?
‘From The Darkness’ is not only the story of my experiences, but I think the experiences of many others too. I try to be honest in the book and I’ve tried to write it as it happened, without hindsight. I don’t think that there is anything quiet like it out there, so I’m hoping that it makes an impact and in return helps people. I am also putting myself out there as a speaker too, anything to raise more awareness.
How important do you think it is to unite those who have suffered domestic and emotional abuse, especially men?
As I said earlier, abuse is all about power. Victims of domestic abuse/violence have suffered a loss of power, that is how the abuser takes control. I believe that uniting victims, bringing them from the darkness that they’ve suffered and into the light, gives them back that power and that is something special.
What advice would you give to men who are suffering domestic and emotional abuse?
Speak out. That is the simplest and best advice…speak out. Don’t be afraid that you will look ‘less than a man’, don’t be afraid that you will seem ‘weak’ or that people will not understand. The GP’s were amazing, Victim Support were amazing and Let’s Talk were amazing, so people do listen. You can always contact me too, I’m always here to listen. No, I’m not up all night, but
across my social media sites, ( see below) people can direct message me and I’ll also put them in touch with support services.
Finally, where can people buy a copy of ‘From The Darkness’?
‘From The Darkness’ will be released in August, not sure of the actual date yet, but I will be sure to let your readers know as soon as I do. You will be able to get a copy either on Kindle or in paperback from Amazon. My agent is also looking into me doing some signing sessions and things like the Cheltenham Literary Festival, so come along and have a chat.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of “Cyber Geek Girl”?
Actually, I would like to recommend some reading for those who are suffering from the aftermath of abuse with depression, anxiety or PTSD. Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” and Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul” changed my life and gave me a new way of living. These books gave me back my power.
To get in touch with John James, author of “From The Darkness”:
Links To Domestic and Emotional Abuse Support Organisations
Tel: 01823 334244
Support Line: 0808 168 9111
Men’s Advice Line
Tel: 0808 801 0327
ADT Healthcarealso offers a free helpline dedicated to helping women and families suffering from drug, alcohol and mental health problems. ADT Healthcare was founded in 2011 by people who overcame addiction themselves.
To Pre-order or Buy a Copy of “From The Darkness”
“From The Darkness” will be available to purchase from Amazon from 15th August either in paperback or on Kindle, and will also be available on John’s website.
John will also be attending signing sessions later in the year which will be announced as soon as they are finalised.