The Male Advice Line (MAL) run by Men’s Development Network has expanded its services and staff to deliver improved supports and outcomes for men experiencing domestic abuse.
With six trained counsellors and psychotherapists, the national freephone service offers confidential support to male victims, operating across seven days and 42 hours per week.
Now, as part of a Tusla-funded pilot initiative, Client Support Workers for the Southwest (Joyce O’Sullivan) and Dublin (Fredrick Okungu) have joined MDN’s Client Support team. Responding to referrals from the Male Advice Line and other services, their role is to provide practical on-the-ground assistance, building resilience and capacity among the men they engage with.
This remote, wraparound service will involve case management, crisis intervention (including individual risk assessment and safety planning) and signposting to suitable supports.
Since its launch in May 2019, the Male Advice Line has helped hundreds of men to cope with abusive behaviour, which includes emotional and physical abuse, in their relationships. It also offers advice to family members or friends of people experiencing abuse.
However, many men on the receiving end in relationships remain reluctant or embarrassed to seek help. MAL supervisor Derek Smith says that “very often they opt to just accept their situation, rather than face the stigma of admission.”
However, after connecting with the Male Advice Line, men frequently gain a new perspective – realising that, as Derek puts it:
“This is a life situation; this is not their life. Our positive message is that ‘Things appear brighter when you open up.’”
The relief that comes with being listened to and feeling supported is followed by the need to plan a positive way forward.
This is where the new Client Support Workers will come in. On receiving referrals from MAL, they will provide practical follow-up support, be it emotional, psychological, or simply feeling they have someone, physically, “in their corner”.
With that in mind, the Client Support Workers will be on hand to advocate for clients in meetings with other agencies, including housing bodies, as well as providing medical, employment, education, and legal assistance, including court accompaniment.
Their role is to be responsive to clients and to support them in their journey.
Joyce O’Sullivan is the new Male Advice Line Client Support Worker for the Southwest, comprising Limerick, Cork, Kerry, and Clare.
A native of Kerry but based in Limerick, Joyce has a degree in Theology and Sociology, with a post-grad diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Currently undertaking a masters in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy, she also holds qualifications in Clinical Pastoral Education and is an accredited healthcare chaplain. Her extensive experience includes working with vulnerable clients, patient advocacy, and counselling.
Fredrick Okungu is the new Male Advice Line Client Support Worker overseeing the Dublin Region.
Based in Dublin, where he is taking a Masters in Gender, Politics, and International Relations at UCD, Fredrick is a native of Kenya, where he previously worked in a range of programmatic capacities for UN Women, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and legislative caucus KYMCA.
His professional interests are embedded in gender equality and social inclusion, minority and marginalised groups’ rights, advocacy and lobbying. Fredrick has also studied Alcohol and Drug Abuse (ADA) and the impact of violence on men’s and women’s health.