Major conference highlights key issues affecting men and boys

Hundreds of delegates gathered at The Lighthouse, Poole, on Monday 14 November as the Safer Poole Partnership marked International Men’s Day with a landmark conference.

The conference, the largest International Men’s Day event ever held in the UK, was organised by the Safer Poole Partnership in association with AFC Bournemouth and the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner. 

The conference opened with a specially-commissioned video starring James McVey of The Vamps, which saw the musician reveal his own struggles with gender stereotyping. The film was followed by an opening speech from  AFC Bournemouth Chairman Jeff Mostyn, who urged attendees to consider that “everybody has a voice, and everybody should be heard.” 

This year’s headline guest speaker was Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, who came to prominence as a flamboyant boxing manager and promoter. Kellie spoke bravely about her own experiences. Delegates heard about the difficulties she faced when trying to come to terms with how she felt, saying: “I didn’t know who to talk to; who to explain it to.”

The difficulties experienced by men in speaking up about subjects perceived as ‘unmanly’ was touched upon by several speakers at the event. Statistics show that one in six men will experience domestic violence or sexual assault, but according to Keith Best, CEO of charity SurvivorsUK, it is estimated that a staggering 90% of victims do not report their experiences.

Ian McNichol spoke movingly about his own treatment at the hands of a violent ex-partner, including his initial unwillingness to speak out in fear of further violence. Ian is calling on Government and other public organisations to create domestic violence policies that reach out to everyone – in his words, “violence is violence; abuse is abuse” – no matter what the gender of the victim. 

Cllr Elaine Atkinson, Domestic Violence Awareness Champion, Borough of Poole, commented: “It is clear from today’s conference that many men suffer unrecognised abuse and isolation, and it is important that we address these issues and encourage them to speak out, helping every victim become a survivor. Listening to today’s speakers has been emotional and inspiring.”

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