WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
Any violence between current or former partners in an intimate relationship wherever and whenever it occurs. The violence may include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse.
Domestic violence is an abuse of power and control, which takes the form of physical, sexual, economic, or psychological bullying directed by one partner against another person whether men or women.
Domestic abuse may also be defined by identifying its function that being domination, punishment or control of one’s partner. Abusers use physical and sexual violence, threats, money, and emotional and psychological abuse to control their partners in order to get their own way.
Possibly as many as 1 in 4 women are abused by a partner. Violence by women towards male partners is less common but does occur.
There are lots of common myths and stereotypes about domestic violence. The facts are all very different.
Examples of some myths are:
IT MAINLY HAPPENS TO POOR WOMEN ON COUNCIL ESTATES
Women from poor and wealthy backgrounds experience domestic violence.
However, although income levels don’t affect whether you’re abused they do affect how you respond.
Women on lower incomes are more likely to come to the notice of helping agencies whereas middle class women may be less likely to seek assistance because they fear personal embarrassment or the possible damage to their husband’s career if the violence was disclosed.
IT’S ALCOHOL THAT CAUSES MEN TO BE VIOLENT
Many men who drink are not violent to their partners and many men who are violent do not drink. Alcohol may be a factor in triggering violent incidents in the home but it’s not the cause.
Often when violent alcoholics seek help for their drinking, the outcome is a sober perpetrator. So it’s more accurate to say that the two problems can co-exist rather than causing the other.
Alcohol ‘frees’ some men up to act in certain ways by giving them what they feel to be an excuse for the damage they cause.
90% of children are in the same room when violence occurs so even if they don’t see it, they usually overhear it. These experiences can affect them both in the long and the short term.
- The emotional effects of witnessing domestic violence are very similar to the psychological trauma associated with being a victim of child abuse.
- Some research suggests that it’s actually worse for some children to overhear the abuse than to see it. Often children’s imaginations mean that they can be more traumatised by what they imagine may be happening from what they can hear, than if, for example, they could actually see that their mother was still alive.
IMAGINE WHAT IT IS LIKE
- Imagine living with a bully all the time, being to scared to leave
- Imagine being afraid to go to sleep at night, being afraid to wake up in the morning
- Imagine being denied food, warmth or sleep
- Imagine being punched, slapped, hit, bitten, pinched and kicked
- Imagine being punched, shoved, burnt, strangled raped, beaten
- Imagine having to watch everything you do or say in case of it upsets the person you live with, or else you will be punished
- Imagine having to seek permission to go out, to see your friends or your family or to give your children a treat
- Imagine being a prisoner in your own home- imagine being timed, when you go out to the shops
- Imagine that you believe what he tells you, that it’s your fault. That if only you were a better mother, lover, housekeeper, kept your mouth shut, could only keep the children quite, dressed how he liked you to, kept in shape, gave up your job – somehow things would get better
- Imagine that you don’t know where to get help, what to do, or how to leave
- Imagine his threats if you dare to say you will leave. How could you ever find the strength to leave? Will you be ever safe again?
- Imagine threats to find and kill you and the children, wherever you go
- Imagine permanent injuries and sometimes death
Physical assault is the most obvious form of violence, the most visible and also the most lethal. Assaults often start small, maybe a little shove during an argument or forcefully grabbing your wrist, but over time the physical abuse (battering) usually becomes more severe and more frequent, and can result in the death of a victim. Domestic violence claims the lives of 2 women a week.
Physical abuse is any act of violence on the victim, and includes the following
- Force feeding
- Pulling hair
- Throwing things
- Use of weapons (gun, Knife etc)
- Physical restraint (pinning against bed, floor)
Basically any behaviour, which hurts or physically harms, or is intended to do so.
Where threats are made within a violent relationship they can be as debilitating as the violence itself. A victim who has already suffered being battered need not imagine the result of displeasing the abuser to carry out threats. Even where the victim has not been physically assaulted, the abuser will often demonstrate his ability to harm her by punching walls or furniture, kicking the family pet or using aggressive behaviour.
However many threats are not physical but part of the ongoing emotional abuse. The abuser may threaten to disappear, with the children, report his partner to social services as an unfit mother, has a significant third party (e.g. family member), refuse housekeeping leave or commit suicide. Whether the threats are a physical sexual or of an emotional nature, they are all designed to gain control of the victim by installing fear and ensuring compliance. The abuser becomes not only the source of pain and abuse, but also the protector, as he is also the person who can prevent the threatened action therefore increasing the victim’s dependence on him.
Many forms of abuse are obviously cruel. Emotional abuse is more subtle, quite often such abuse goes unseen, as even the victim does not recognise that she is being abused. Emotional abuse is cruel and scars your soul physical or sexual abuse is always accompanied and often follows emotional abuse, the emotional battering is used to wear the victim down often over a long period of time and is wiling to take responsibility for her abusers actions and behaviour towards her or simply accept it. There are many categories of emotional abuse/psychological abuse.
The abuser will control whom the victim sees, where she goes, whom she speaks to and what she does. This can take the form of simply not allowing her to use the phone or having her friends round or visit her family, or ensuring its simply isn’t worth it by being in a bad mood because she left some housework undone, making her feel guilty that she was out enjoying herself while he worked, or even encouraging her – theoretically-to make friends, and then discounting them or complaining that she cares more for her friends/family/hobby then she does him or is neglecting him. Some abusers may move home frequently to prevent their victim from building a social support network.
Many abusers justify their control over their victim by stating that is a proof of their love, or that they worry about their safety when out, etc. In reality however, the abuser needs to isolate his victim to feel secure themselves, they feel as though any relationship, be it family, friend or
colleague, will undermine their authority over them and take their partner away from them, i.e. poses a threat. The affect of this isolation is that the victim feels very alone in her struggle, doesn’t have anyone with whom to a “ reality check” and is ultimately more dependant on the abuser for all her social needs.
Forms of isolation include:
- Checking up on you
- Accusing you of unfaithfulness
- Moving to an isolated area
- Ensuring you lack transport or a telephone
- Making your friends or family feel uncomfortable when visiting so that they cease
- Punishing you for being 10 minutes late home from work by complaining, bad moods, criticism or physical abuse
- Not allowing you to leave the house on your own
- Demanding a report on your actions and conversations
- Preventing you from working
- Not allowing any activity which excludes him
- Finding fault with your friends or family
- Insisting on taking you to and from work
In extreme cases the victim may be reduced to episodes of becoming a prisoner, being locked in a room denied basic necessities, such as warmth, food, toilet or washing facilities. Basically any behaviour, which hurts or physically harms, or is intended to do so.
Sexual abuse can be defined as any sexual encounter without consent and includes any unwanted touching, forced sexual activity
Be it oral, anal or vaginal, forcing the victim to perform sexual acts, painful or degrading acts during intercourse (e.g. urinating on victim), and exploitation through photography or prostitution.
The abuser may use violence to rape his partner (this is the most common where physical violence is also current) or he may use only enough force to control his partner’s movements (known as “ force- only rape”). Coercion or manipulation in the form of threats, emotional psychological abuse may also be used, leaving the victim to submit to unwanted sexual acts out of fear or guilt. The abuser may, for instance, imply that should she not submit, he would hit her, leave her and find “another women”, withdraw the housekeeping or punish her in some way. Or the abuser may insist on sex following a physical attack so the victim can prove she has forgiven him. Whatever form of coercion is used, be it physical, financial or emotional, any sexual act, which is not based on mutual consent, constitutes abuse.
Sexual Abuse can involve the following
- Excessive jealousy
- Calling you sexually derogatory names
- Criticising you sexually
- Forcing unwanted sexual acts
- Forcing you to strip
- Sadistic sexual acts
- Withholding sex and affection
- Minimising or denying your feelings about sex or sexual preferences
- Forcing sex after physical assault
- Taking unwanted sexual photos
- Forcing you into prostitution
- Forcing sex when you are ill or tired
When sexual abuse occurs within marriage the victim will often feel very confused as to whether or not she has been ‘raped’ it seems obvious to all (general public, law enforcement agencies, religious leaders, etc). That when a women (or man) is raped out on the street by a stranger, that rape has occurred and is wrong. When rape occurs within the marriage, neither abuser nor victim may consider it rape. This is partially due to the general acceptance of the Christian tradition within our culture, which tells us that it is the wife’s duty.
When thinking of verbal abuse we tend to envisage the abuser hurling insulting names at the victim and while this obviously does happen, there are many other forms. The abuser may use critical, insulting or humiliating remarks (e.g. you’re stupid), he may withhold conversation and refuse to discuss the issues, or he may keep you up all night insisting on talking when you need sleep. Verbal abuse undermines your sense of worth, your self-concept (i.e. what you think you are) by discounting your ideas, opinions or beliefs.
Below are some examples of verbal abuse
- Yelling or shouting at you
- Making threats
- Insulting your family
- Being sarcastic or criticising your interests, opinions or beliefs
- Humiliating you either in private or in company
- Sneering, growling, name-calling
- Withholding approval, appreciation, or conversation
- Refusing to discuss issues which are important to you
- Laughing or making fun of you inappropriately
- Leaving nasty messages
- Accusing you of unfaithfulness, not trying hard enough or purposely doing something to annoy
- Blaming you for his failures
All of these abusive behaviours prohibit normal, healthy Interactions between two adults as well as lack of respect thoughts, feelings, and opinions. A healthy, mutual interaction and conversation between two persons respects and promotes the right of each partner to their own individual thoughts, perceptions and values.
Financial abuse can take many forms, from denying you all access to funds, to making you solely responsible for all finances while handling money irresponsible himself. Money becomes a tool by which the abuser can further control the victim, ensuring either her financial dependence on him, or shifting the responsibility of keeping a roof over the family’s head onto the victim while simultaneously denying your ability to do so or obstructing you.
Financial abuse can include the following:
- Preventing you from getting or keeping a job
- Denying you sufficient housekeeping
- Having to account for every penny spent
- Denying access to cheque book/account/finances
- Putting bills in your name
- Demanding your pay cheques
- Spending money allocated to bills/groceries on himself
- Forcing you to beg or commit crimes for money
- Spending the child benefit on himself
- Not permitting you to spend available funds on yourself or children
All domestic incidents are treated with the utmost seriousness and you should find help if you feel you are a victim of domestic violence.
Under the Family Law Act 1996, many victims of domestic violence can apply for court orders against their abusers.
If you are being abused by the person you live with, or someone connected with you may decide it may be best to leave your home. If you have no where to go you can contact your Local Housing Department or Refuge Centre and they may provide you with temporary accommodation such as a place in a hostel, a bed & breakfast or a women’s refuge.
A refuge is a safe house where women and children can live free from violence. It offers temporary breathing space where you can make decisions free from pressure and fear.
One of the reasons that many people stay in an abusive relationship is because they wonder how they will manage financially if they leave. There are various benefits you may be able to claim and you can claim some even if you are working. Contact your local Benefits Office where they will be able to give advice.
In an emergency call the Police on 999—Domestic Violence is treated very seriously by the Police and the courts.
You can also call the 24 hour National Domestic Help line on 0808 2000 247.
For further information call your local City Council on for you local family recourse centre.
IF IN IMMEDIATE DANGER DIAL 999 POLICE
WOMEN’S AID NATIONAL HELPLINE
Tel 08457 023 468
Helpline and refuge for women and their children
Rape & Sexual abuse support centre
Tel: 08451 221 331
National helpline 0845-3030900
Tel 0808 800 4444
WORST KEPT SECRET TEL:
0800 028 3398 which is invisible on your bill excluding mobiles
Wimbledon SW19 safer Merton domestic violence
24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline
0808 2000 247
National Centre Domestic Violence
Free help with legal non molestation orders.
National stalking helpline
0808 802 0300