BRITAIN'S first dedicated refuge for male victims of domestic abuse is to open in Wales.
Montgomeryshire Family Crisis Centre, one of the UK's leading organisations assisting females, said it had been prompted to open a centre in Mid Wales by the growing numbers of men seeking its help.
MFCC, which has offices in Newtown and Welshpool, is looking for a site in Powys for the hostel.
It said it had been contacted by strapping 6ft-tall men who had been either beaten by their wives or suffered a regime of verbal or mental torture.
MFCC, which operates a 24-hour helpline for both sexes, said it received 472 inquiries from male victims last year. Currently, there are 400 refuges for women throughout the UK, but none exclusively for men.
Shirley Powell, senior co-ordinator of the project, said, "More and more men who are victims are coming forward to seek out help.
"Developing a refuge is something we've talked about for a long time and although we've worked with some male victims we've been unable to provide them with the care we think they need."
Jacqui Richardson, senior practitioner at MFCC, said, "We've had female victims who are professionals with their own car and money and we've had male victims in the same social position.
"The fact that this sort of abuse is the sole privilege of the so-called lower classes is a myth. Abuse is prevalent in all social structures.
"It can take various forms from physical, sexual, mental and verbal and it can make people's lives a living hell. We're here to help victims get back on their feet and we don't care if they drive a Jag or push a pram."
Giving an example of a man who sought MFCC's help and advice, Mrs Richardson said, "We had a professional who visited one of our offices and it was clearly a difficult thing for him to do. But he had recently paid £145 for dental work after his wife had beaten him up. He'd also been the victim of mental and verbal abuse."
Mrs Powell said another issue the centre wanted to highlight was young male victims.
"There are some males as young as 16 who are unable to enter refuges, so where do they go? Some are abused by their parents or siblings and have no-one to turn to," she said.
"There are all sorts of issues of masculinity tied up in all dealings with men who often simply don't come forward because there's no help for them.
"Whether the perpetrators are men or women, we also tend to look at the triggers or the motivation for abuse and try and teach people to control themselves.
"We also deal with perpetrators, challenging their ideas, motivations and intentions."
David Hughes, of ManKind, which offers advice to male victims of abuse, welcomed the plans.
Mr Hughes, based in Newport, said, "The Home Office questioned 10,000 men and women for a report into domestic abuse recently and it found that 4.2% of men and 4.2% of women were perpetrators of domestic abuse.
"However, there's very little help for men available. There is a social stigma attached to male victims who are reticent compared to women who are five times more likely to complain to police."