What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic Abuse / Domestic Violence can be actual or threatened physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse, which takes place within the context of any close relationship, usually partners or ex-partners.
Domestic Abuse occurs across all communities regardless of social class, gender, family income, age, sexuality, religion, ethnic or racial background and mental or physical ability.
As well as physical and sexual violence, Domestic Abuse can involve a wide range of abusive and controlling behaviour, including threats, harassment, financial control, coercive control and emotional abuse. It arises from a misuse of power and exercise of control by one person over another.
Domestic violence is very common with 1 in 4 women experiencing it in their lifetime and 2-3 women dying every week at the hands of violent partners.
Every minute in the UK, the Police receive a call from the public for assistance for domestic violence. This leads to police receiving an estimated 1,300 calls each day or over 570,000 each year. (Stanko, 2000).
Although every situation is unique, there are common factors that link the experience of an abusive relationship. Acknowledging these factors is an important step in preventing and stopping the abuse.
This list may help you to recognise if you, or someone you know, are in an abusive relationship - Criticism; verbal abuse; shouting; name calling; threatening; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions; persistently putting you down; breaking trust; lying to you; withholding information from you; being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises; isolation; checking telephone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends and relatives; harassment; following you; checking up on you; destroying your possessions; breaking things; punching walls; threatening to kill or harm you and the children; sexual violence; rape; physical violence; punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling; denial; saying the abuse doesn't happen; saying you caused the abusive behaviour; being different in public; begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.
These are not exhaustive but highlight the varying range of emotional, mental, physical and sexual types of abuse. It is more common than you probably think.
Who are the victims?
Domestic violence takes place within the context of a close relationship, usually partners / ex-partners. It occurs across all communities regardless of social class, gender, family income, age, sexuality, religion, ethnic or racial background, and mental or physical ability. Men usually perpetrate the abuse over women but it can be women controlling men and can also happen within same sex relationships. However, whilst both men and women may experience incidents of violence, women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of violence, including sexual violence. (See below for male victim info)
What are the effects of domestic violence?
Victims are affected by domestic violence in a number of ways:
Physical Abuse may include things like pushing, slapping, punching, biting, burning, strangling, throwing objects, kicking and ultimately murder
Sexual Abuse may include innapropriate touching, sexual demands, hurting you during sex, rape, having unsafe sex, having affairs etc
Financial Abuse is about controlling all of your finances, making you account for every penny, not being allowed to work or have your own income, making all the financial decisions etc
Threats & Intimidation can be things like threatening to hurt you, destroying things that belong to you, threatening to kill you, threatening to kill themselves, harassing you, following you, stalking you, invading your space or standing over you
Emotional Abuse can be belittling you, putting you down, name calling, sulking, blaming you, changing the rules, making you think you are crazy, isolating you from family/friends, minimising the abuse, making demands on you, etc.
These lists are not exhaustive and everyone's experiences are different. What we do know is the abuse has horrendous physical, emotional and psychological effects on the victim/survivor. They often have experiences of anxiety, depression or lowered sense of self-worth; poor health; physical injury or ongoing impairment and sometimes death. 2 to 3 women die EVERY WEEK in the UK at the hands of violent men.
Why do victims stay in or return to violent relationships?
Leaving a relationship does not guarantee that the violence will stop. In fact, the period during which a person is planning or making their exit is often the most dangerous time for them and their children. Many are frightened of the abuser, and with good reason, as it is not uncommon for perpetrators to threaten to harm or even kill their partners or children if they leave.
However, there may also be other reasons why victims may not be ready to leave: they may still care for their partner and hope that things will change (victims usually want the violence to stop, not the relationship); they may feel ashamed about what has happened or believe that it is their fault; they may be scared of the future (where to go, what about money, will they have to hide forever and what will happen to the children); they may be isolated from family or friends or be prevented from leaving the home or looking for help; they may have low self-esteem; they may believe that it is better to stay for the sake of the children (eg wanting a father for her children and/or wishing to prevent the stigma associated with being a single parent).
Victims need to have options and be supported to make safe changes for themselves and their children. Resources and support they will need to leave safely include: money, housing, help with moving, transport, ongoing protection, legal support to protect them and the children, and emotional support. If a victim is not sure that these are available, this may also prevent them from leaving.
Recent studies in England and in North East Lincs showed that when victims were asked about why they didnt leave, an overwhelming number of them said "no-one ever asked me"
Who is responsible for the violence?
The abuser is. Always. There is no excuse for domestic violence.
The abuser has a choice to use violence for which they are responsible and for which they should be held accountable. They do not have to use violence. They can choose, instead, to behave non-violently and foster a relationship built on trust, honesty, fairness and respect.
The victim is never responsible for the abuser's behaviour.
'Blaming the victim' is something that abusers will often do to make excuses for their behaviour. This is part of the pattern and is in itself abusive. Sometimes abusers manage to convince their victims that they are to blame for the abuser's behaviour. Blaming their behaviour on someone else, the relationship, their childhood, their ill health, or their alcohol or drug addiction is an abuser's way of avoiding personal responsibility for their behaviour. For more information about perpetrators, we recommend you visit the Respect website: www.respect.uk.net
For more information to help victims and survivors undertand these tactics and behaviours - please see The Freedom Prgramme.
What are the effects of domestic violence on children?
The majority of children who live in violent homes will witness the violence that is occurring. It can be witnessed in a variety of ways. For example, they may be in the same room and may even get caught in the middle of an incident in an effort to make the violence stop; they may be in the room next door and hear the abuse or see physical injuries following an incident of violence; they may be forced to stay in one room or may not be allowed to play; they may be forced to witness abuse or they may be forced to take part in verbally abusing the victim. ALL children witnessing domestic abuse are being emotionally abused.
From 31 January 2005 Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 came into force, which extends the legal definition of harming children to include harm suffered by seeing or hearing ill-treatment of others, especially in the home.
Children are individuals and may respond to witnessing abuse in different ways. They may
- be anxious or depressed
- have difficulty sleeping
- have nightmares or flashbacks
- be easily startled
- start to wet their bed
- have temper tantrums
- behave as though they are much younger
- have problems with school
- become aggressive or they may internalise their distress and withdraw from other people
- have a lowered sense of self-worth
- begin to truant or start to use alcohol or drugs
Children may also feel angry, guilty, insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused. They may be confused about their feelings towards the abuser and the non-abusing parent. We believe that a boy who has witnessed domestic violence does not have to grow up to be an abuser and a girl does not have to become a victim of domestic violence later in life. Anti-violence education in schools and other programmes that educate children about healthy relationships and effective conflict resolution skills are important preventive measures.
"At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Nearly three quarters of children on the 'at risk' register live in households where domestic violence occurs" (Department of Health, 2002).
One of the reasons women stay in the home is that they believe their children will be taken away from them when in fact there are more likely to be concerns if the children are constantly experiencing and witnessing domestic violence in their homes.
There is a website thehideout.org.uk which is designed specially for children and young people.
Male victims of domestic abuse?
Studies show that men are less likely to seek support from services or talk to anyone about their experiences. Like women, the abuse men suffer is not just physical but can be emotional, psychological and financial - similarly making them feel powerless, isolated and depressed. Studies also show that men are less likely to report the incident and those who did report it commonly had feelings of being disbelieved. You are not alone - call us for a chat - we know how difficult it is for men experiencing domestic abuse to know who to approaach for help and support.
Women's Aid recognises that our support work is predominently focused on women; however, controlling and abusive behaviour can also occur by women against men. Womens Aid believe that every person has the right to live a life free from violence, so we have other services apart from the refuge that are available to men including our helpline. Our staff are here to listen and look at ways of helping, which may include giving you information and options, giving you time to talk through your issues, providing you with lots of support and possibly signposting and supporting you to get help from other agencies such as housing, legal advice, etc.
There is sometimes a misunderstanding that there are no services in North East Lincs for men who need help and support. In fact, most agencies, including Women's Aid, will support men suffering abuse. Althugh most male victims call us on our usual number we do have a seperate line - 01472 58 88 88 (not 24hrs). Housing providers, agencies, council, childrens services, etc., would be understanding of any person suffering domestic abuse. The only provision locally that is not available to men is that of the women's refuge and centre - however, there are other hostel and housing providers to help with this. You can also email us email@example.com
The national Men's Advice Line is also confidential and is a FREE from most landline and mobile numbers - Call 08088 010 327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.mensadviceline.org.uk