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Domestic Abuse

1 in 4 women experiences some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime and often domestic abuse can begin or escalate during pregnancy.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic Refuge reported an increase of 25% in calls and requests for support online. Support agencies observed an increase in household tensions and domestic violence due to forced co-existence, economic stress, and fears about the virus. Additionally, increased isolation and fewer visitors to the home environment may lead to those needing help in an abusive situation not being able to report and evidence of physical abuse going unnoticed.

Domestic abuse can be perpetrated by a partner or by a family member and can affect both women and men; it can also occur within same sex relationships.

Domestic abuse does not have to be physical it can take other forms; it is a repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner. Anyone who has to change their behaviour due to fear of their partner’s reaction is being abused. The other forms of domestic abuse include emotional abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse is sometimes referred to as ‘Psychological Abuse’. This the repeated attack on someone’s personality such as name-calling, putting someone down, making someone feel like they are mad, blaming them for the abuse they are experiencing, or controlling someone behaviour through threats and intimidation. This type of abuse is very damaging and the repeated nature of emotional abuse can lead to the abused person believing what the abuser is saying, damaging their self-esteem and often feeling that no-one will believe them about the abuse that is being suffered or that no-one cares about them except the abuser.

Sexual abuse including rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation is used by perpetrators to control and abuse their partners. It can take the form of physical contact, words or photographs and is abuse when it is done without the full informed consent of the other person. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse can take place within a relationship or marriage and it does not matter if there has been consent at previous times in the relationship. Sexual abuse also includes forcing someone to partake in sexual acts which they feel are degrading. Withholding access to contraception and family planning services is also a form of sexual abuse.

Economic abuse is the controlling of someone’s ability to acquire and maintain their own access to finances. This can include stopping someone from gaining employment so that they are unable to be financially independent, sabotaging job interviews, or not allowing access to welfare benefits they are entitled too. This form of abuse can present as spending or taking money without consent or building up debt in the other person’s name. If a couple has separated it also includes the refusal to pay or the withholding of child maintenance.

Coercive control is now recognised as a criminal offence. This is the systematic use of control, intimidation, humiliation, threats or assault to harm, frighten, isolate and abuse their partner. Coercive control can include but is not limited to isolation from friends and family, monitoring you online using spywear or other media tools, controlling the aspects of your daily life such as where you go, how you spend your time, what you wear, when you sleep. Deprivation of basic needs such as food or access to healthcare, intimidation, threats, controlling finances, putting you down, degrading or dehumanising you.

Some common myths about Domestic Abuse:

  • Alcohol or drugs make men violent – many perpetrators have abused their partners when they are sober and not under the influence of drugs. Additionally, there are those who use alcohol and drugs and have never abused their partners. This excuse diminishes the responsibility that needs to be taken by the perpetrator for their actions.
  • It only happened the one time – it rarely is a ‘one-off’ and often bullying behaviour will escalate over time.
  • The abuser said they were sorry and it wouldn’t happen again – a show of remorse often occurs following an incident of abuse. However, it is imperative that the perpetrator takes responsibility for their actions.
  • If the abuse was that bad they would leave – relationships are created from falling in love and abusive behaviour often begins once a relationship is well established. Therefore, the person may be still in love with the perpetrator. Additionally, it is very difficult to leave an abusive situation if you are socially isolated, have no independent finances, are frightened for your safety or your children’s safety or over a period of time have had your self-belief worn away due to harmful abusive behaviour.
  • Domestic abuse only occurs in poor families or on council estates – domestic abuse can happen within any family regardless of financial mobility.  Poverty or financial stressors are not catalysts for harmful behaviour. Additionally, family stressors are not an excuse for perpetrators abusive behaviour within their families.
  • Domestic Abuse does not affect the children – domestic abuse increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, infection risk, injury and stillbirth, in addition, the unborn baby’s emotional wellbeing can be affected too. Children in the home are aware of domestic abuse even if they are not in the same room or they are sleeping. There can be a profound impact on their emotional development and attachments.
  • Domestic abuse is a private matter and you shouldn’t get involved – domestic abuse is a crime and incurs high costs for a society which can include medical treatment, court proceedings and imprisonment as well as the emotional and psychological costs to those affected. Therefore we have a duty to provide support and help to those who are experiencing domestic abuse.
  • If I tell someone social services will take my children away – social services will often become involved with a family if domestic abuse is or has occurred. The key point is that social care are there to ensure the children are being kept safe and that they are able to experience a childhood free from harm and fear so that they have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The aim is to always keep children with the parent who keeps them safe; social services would like to work in partnership with you so they can help support you to achieve keeping yourself and your children safe from abuse.

 

Seeking Help

24 Hour 365 days a year National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247

This is a Freephone number that can be used for women, concerned friends, family or professionals. There is also access to language services through this helpline as well as type talk for deaf or hard of hearing callers. The helpline can help you to access refuge accommodation and other specialist services. If the line is busy continue trying to call; it is often quieter in the evenings, nights and weekends.

If you are fearful for your safety or the safety of your children always call 999 in an emergency.

Further support and advice can be found online at:

https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/

https://www.refuge.org.uk/

 

Support for Men

Everybody has the right to live a life free from fear and harm and it is important to recognise that abuse can occur to heterosexual, gay, bisexual and transgender men.

The Men’s Advice Line can be contacted on 0808 801 0327 for specialist support services.

In an emergency you can call 999 

Further support and advice can also be found online at https://mensadviceline.org.uk/

 

What about my pets?

For many living in fear from an abuser a barrier to leaving a relationship may be around concerns for the family pet. There is an inextricable link between abusive behaviour and animal abuse and perpetrators may often harm the family pet to cause emotional and psychological harm to their partners. There are some volunteer groups listed below that can help with fostering of pets, strictly confidential, until you have been able to relocate safely.

http://www.dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk/

http://www.pawsforkids.org.uk/pets-fostering

http://www.pfss.org.uk/

https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/paws-protect