John missed out on the opportunity to walk his daughter down the aisle, he was isolated from all of his friends and ended up with a diagnosis of acute sleep deprivation.

That is the extent of the domestic abuse he suffered at the hand of his ex-wife.

John, not his real name, is from north Cumbria and is one of thousands of men who suffer domestic abuse in the county.

A Freedom of Information request made by the News & Star to Cumbria police, revealed that 2,728 men in Cumbria were victims of domestic abuse in the last four years.

They represent 23 per cent of all domestic abuse crimes dealt with by the force, but numbers have more than doubled from 428 male victims in 2015/16 to 1,101 in 2018/19

These are just the reports officers in the county have received, John believes there are many more victims who are not speaking out.

“Men of all cultures, colour and sexual persuasion experience domestic abuse, it happens to one in six men. These new police figures prove increasing numbers of men are reporting it and they are a growing proportion of its victims.

“Domestic abuse comes in many guises and psychological forms which men experience all too frequently and can have a more harmful effect than physical violence.

“By reporting to police, contacting another organisation that can help or secretly searching online for information about domestic abuse against men and what it is, you show your strength and resolve to deal with problems, improve your life and protect your children. You are not feeble for reporting it.”

John, who is in his forties, met his ex-wife on a dating website and he thought she was a lovely and considerate person. Eight months after they met they were married, but three months later John discovered a new side to his wife.

“We talked about the young woman who she already knew I had fostered during my previous marriage. I said she is ‘the closest thing I have to a daughter’ and my new wife was shocked. Yet she knew my family history, she was aware we were in weekly contact and they had met on several occasions.

"This exuberant young woman who as a teenager called me ‘dad’, had been part of my life and I part of hers for 25 years. My wife told me and friends that this ongoing contact was ‘very unusual’. When my daughter announced she got engaged she asked me to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. My wife was horrified that I gladly accepted.”

John will always live with the regret of giving in to his wife. “One year later I learnt that my daughter had given birth to a baby girl. My enforced isolation was so effective that I hadn’t even known she was pregnant.”

John was also isolated from his friends, and his wife would check his emails to ensure he was not meeting up with them. “If I did, there was hell to pay,” he said.

The abusive relationship also resulted in a diagnosis of acute sleep deprivation for John. She would wake him up claiming he had stopped breathing. “I smelt a rat, because sometimes she did it when I was still awake, but very still and relaxed. At her insistence I went to my GP and it was clear I did not suffer from sleep apnoea.”

Later, after John told his wife of his diagnosis, her behaviour did not change. “On my day off she pulled the bedclothes off me and demanded ‘where’s my breakfast?’. She wanted to constantly argue with me.”

But one day things changed. John’s wife was staying at her parents’ house and he decided to reach out to an old friend.

“It was a long time since we had met and we talked. She reminded me that she used to work for a large domestic abuse agency and told me what I was describing was domestic abuse. We talked for hours and everything began to fall into place.

"She advised me to talk with ManKind Initiative. I looked on their website, then called them. It helped a lot, as did ongoing contact with the friend who urged me to get help. So the very person my abuser sought to most isolate me from was by far the best person to help me.

“Recovery has taken time but now I’m happily remarried and Safetynet, based in Carlisle, is another organisation that has helped me with that. Over the last three years I have become a campaigner for domestic abuse to be better recognised.”

Help is on hand for men who are victim of domestic abuse

The ManKind initiative is just one of the many organisations helping male victims of domestic abuse.

Commenting on the figures analysed by the News & Star, chairman Mark Brooks said: “These figures are both shocking yet welcome. They show the level of domestic abuse against men and the growing confidence they have in coming forward. Friends, family and work colleagues are also playing a key part in supporting them and we are really pleased with Cumbria police force in the way they are actively encouraging men to report.

“These figures should act as a spur for even more men to reach out as many feel they are the only man in the world this has ever happened to and they suffer in silence behind their front door. They now know they are not alone – they can escape and rebuild their lives.”

Cumbria police also now offers multi-agency web surgeries for domestic abuse victims twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays on the force’s Facebook page.

People can ask questions and raise concerns and a private messaging function is also available.

The force works in partnership with Victim Support on its cases to ensure victims have the help they need.

For a list of support and advice available visit

The Man Kind initiative can be contacted on 01823 334244 from 10am to 4pm on weekdays or you can visit the website

In an emergency, call 999.