What is Domestic Abuse?
Many people think that domestic abuse just means physical violence. This sometimes leads to women not seeking help because “at least they don’t hit me”. But domestic abuse is about control – about how one person uses an intimate relationship to control another person, often their partner or former partner. The controlling behaviour forms a pattern, rather than being one-off incidents.
It can include a range of behaviour:
- Physical violence – slapping, burning, beating, kicking, biting, knife wounds often leading to permanent injuries and sometimes death.
- Sexual abuse – rape, forced sexual acts, sexual degradation
- Emotional abuse – intimidation, bullying, constant criticism, keeping someone locked up and isolated from family and friends.
- Threats – to harm your family, to take your children away, to put pictures on the internet, to kill you.
- Financial – not giving you any money, constantly questioning the money you spend
Who does Domestic Abuse Affect?
A woman experiencing domestic abuse may be anyone you come into contact with; your mother, your sister, your daughter, a friend, colleague or neighbour. Abuse happens regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, disability or lifestyle.
What are the effects of domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse seriously affects the lives of women, children and young people in all sorts of ways.
Common health effects of domestic abuse include physical injury, poor health and a range of psychological difficulties. Children who witness the abuse, or who are used in the abuse, are also affected physically and emotionally.
Women may lose their home, their job, their income and their place in their community. They may experience a range of other difficulties including isolation from family and friends as well as low self-esteem, lack of confidence and feelings of blame, guilt, stigma and worthlessness.
Domestic abuse affects children and young people. They are often in the same or next room when it is happening. They can be directly abused and are sometimes hurt when they try to intervene. Living with domestic abuse can affect their emotional and psychological wellbeing and undermine the relationship with their mother as well as force them to move repeatedly to escape abuse and face disruption to their education.
What are the signs of domestic abuse?
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening.
- Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
- Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
- Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
- Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.
- Threats: making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun, threatening to kill or harm you and the children.
- Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex, any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
- Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.