Out of shame, Gary Clark has to this day told almost no one in his private circle about what happened to him – not about the months of humiliation, not about the stalking and not because of the fear that his then-partner could do something to him.

“I was so ashamed,” the 63-year-old says today. With the support of acquaintances, he managed to escape from the apartment they shared in the spring of this year and found protection in a violence protection facility for men.

Like Clark, more and more men affected by domestic violence are seeking help. This is shown by the usage statistics for men’s protection facilities, which the Federal Office for the Protection of Men from Violence (BFKM) presented in Berlin. Accordingly, in 2022 the number of requests for help in men’s shelters rose by around two thirds from 251 in 2021 to 421. Of those seeking help, 99 were able to be accommodated in one of the twelve shelters nationwide. Of those affected, nine men brought a total of 13 children to the facilities.

“Men being affected by violence in relationships is still something that tends to cause irritation when we talk about it,” says Dag Schölper, managing director of the Federal Forum for Men, when presenting the results. When it comes to domestic violence, people often talk about male perpetrators, but rarely about male victims.

According to the domestic violence situation report from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), 76.3 (150,633) percent of suspects last year were male. Men made up 28.9 percent (69,471) of the victims. The number of male victims of intra-family violence was slightly higher only among small children – in the age group up to six years – with 3,192 boys and 2,993 girls affected.

The number of male sufferers is significantly lower

Even if the number of male adults affected is significantly lower, they should be entitled to the same support, the BKFM representatives demand. According to the usage statistics of the shelters, almost all of the men, 97 percent, report psychological violence such as insults, stalking, arguments or border crossings. Almost three quarters were also affected by physical violence. Economic, social and sexual violence were also reported.

In most cases, partners were responsible for the violence (45 percent). Parents (20 percent), siblings (6.1) and people from the neighborhood (5.2) are also listed as perpetrators.

Gary Clark was finally able to escape months of violence by finding a place in a shelter. “I was with her 24 hours a day,” he says of life with his former partner. He had no car and no income of his own. “I was under their control.” When he went for a walk through the village, the woman followed him in the car. Even before they met, she had been stalking him, he later found out. He says he fled the apartment during a night-and-dagger operation. He only took the clothes he was wearing and left everything else behind. To this day he has not received his personal belongings. His ex-partner only wants to send it to him in exchange for money, and she still regularly sends him threats via chat messages. “My things are like hostages,” says the 63-year-old.

“I blamed myself for too long”

Seeking help was a big hurdle for him. In his home country of Canada he grew up in a conservative rural environment. He grew up with the attitude that men should not show weakness. He is still ashamed of his situation today and finds it visibly difficult to talk about it. “I’ve been blaming myself for too long.”

Many men feel shame or have a lack of awareness that violence is being done to them, says Jana Peters from the BFKM. According to the analysis, only a few men under the age of 20 sought protection in one of the apartments last year, although the highest proportion of male victims are under 21 years old, according to the BKA. Peters gave as a possible explanation that for some people violence is simply part of the situation due to fights on the street or fights in the football stadium. This could lead to domestic violence not being perceived as such. Men have some catching up to do when it comes to raising awareness of this.

According to Frank Scheinert, managing education officer at the BFKM, it is therefore important to make it clear: “This is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength, to either get advice or perhaps even use a shelter to find peace and quiet to build a new perspective on life.”

In order to give more men this opportunity and to meet the need, according to Scheinert, 67 additional men’s shelters are needed – at least three to five facilities per federal state. There are currently 41 places available for men and their children across Germany. In eleven federal states there is no corresponding offer at all. Men affected by violence can find out about offers of help at www.ohne-violent-leben.de.