WITH the nation’s biggest soap tackling the issue, male-victim domestic violence has been brought to the fore.

Colne actress Natalie Gumede, recently-crowned best newcomer at the British Soap Awards, is at the centre of an explosive Coronation Street storyline.

Her character Kirsty Soames has revealed herself as a man beater with on-screen boyfriend Tyrone being subject to her anger.

Nationally, male victims represent around eight to 12 per cent of reported domestic abuse cases.

But statistics reveal East Lancashire has a much higher rate — and in Darwen 30 per cent of reports of domestic violence come from male victims.

Natalie, 28, has been surprised at the amount of positive feedback she has received.

“Viewers are intrigued to see what happens next as it’s a really complex story for a complex character,” she said.

“There are times with this relationship between Kirsty and Tyrone where it could be great. They do really love each other, interjected with this awful aspect of Kirsty’s personality.

“What Coronation Street has done really well is build the storyline which has been bubbling away for several months.

“To say her actions are justified is wrong, but the clues have been there as to why Kirsty has behaved like she has.”

Natalie believes much of the strength of the plot lies in revealing the background of domestic violence behind Kirsty’s flawed character.

She said: “It has been really interesting how people have said they felt sorry for her.

“We all know right from wrong, but there are reasons behind what people do and things are not as simple as they appear.”

Vivien Blackledge of Blackburn with Darwen Women’s Aid — which supports victims, and perpetrators, of domestic abuse, whatever their gender — says extreme violence is an unusual trait for a female abuser.

“With male victims it’s more often harassment and emotional abuse, but you do see physical too,” she said.

“Weapons are used to compensate for a woman being less physically able.”

“We are significantly aware of under-reporting by male victims.”

Vivien said refuges, contrary to popular opinion, do exist for men.

Voluntary schemes run by Women’s Aid to help perpetrators do show a gender divide.

“As a generalisation, working with female perpetrators, we tend to find they minimise whereas men exaggerate,” Vivien said.

“Because they primarily are not using physical violence, women tend to say things like ‘just because I call him names...’ and they view it as less than a physical assault.”

Claire Bennett, manager of Pendle Action In Community, which runs the Pendle Domestic Violence Initiative welcomed the soap storyline for highlighting the issue.

“We don’t get many men through the doors, for a variety of reasons,” she said.

“The issue is not talked about enough and there is not enough awareness, as well as the stigma attached to the problem.

“But we have been looking to tackle this and I am glad that awareness is being generated.”