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According to the UK government, it was recorded they class domestic abuse as the following:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.’
Yet, as a counsellor on a helpline at Health Assured I often hear ‘but they haven’t been physical to me’, when I state how the behaviour of a partner sounded controlling or abusive.
Abusive or violent behaviour does not just mean physical abuse. Domestic abuse can appear in several different ways. The abuse may not start immediately, and quite often the abuser will often increase the violence over a period of time. Why is this you ask? When you are in a domestically violent relationship, you are often ‘conditioned’, what this means is that you the victim in this relationship are conditioned to believe that this behaviour, whether this is physical, verbal, mental or emotional is normal, more so when the incidents are at first infrequent.
According to the crime survey for England and Wales, in the year 2020 an estimated 5.5% of the adults between the ages of 16 to 74 years had experienced domestic violence in that one year alone. 5.5% does not sound alarming, yet when we state what this is in the millions which is 2.3 million adults, this is a worrying and sad factor.
Another fact that people often do not realize about Domestic abuse is that this is not always from a partner, abuse can also be from a family member such as a parent or sibling too. Again, in family situations if you are raised with a parent for example who is often controlling or mentally abusive, through to adulthood this is now classed as ‘normal’ behaviour which can be difficult for some victims to free themselves from without support.
Domestic violence can be formed from a one isolated incident, or it can be a pattern of behaviours which also include controlling and emotional abuse also.
According to the office for national statistics, in the year 2020, that despite there being an estimated 2.3 million abuse related crimes, that only 758,941 of these were recorded by the police.
During the pandemic which started in 2020, this caused concern for many people, especially those that were being forced to stay at home with their abusers during lockdown. According to the government statistics, during the pandemic lockdown in the months March to June 2020 the police recorded 259,324 domestic abuse related reports. The women’s aid provider calculated there had been a huge increase of people seeking support for domestic violence during the lockdown, for instance there was an ‘80% increase in 30 community-based services’ and a staggering ‘91% increase of 22 online support services’ for domestic violence. It was discussed that maybe there was such a large increase because people could not access their usual line of support, or even that they could not use their normal coping mechanisms of leaving the home to escape the violence or even to attend support services in the local area due to the lockdown that was set to the UK population because of the pandemic.
As stated above, as a counsellor with experience of working with both men and women who have endured domestic abuse, the biggest statement I would hear is that the partner had never been physical. I often spend time explaining to each client, this did not matter. Abuse is Abuse whether it is physical, mental, verbal, emotional, economical or sexual.
Below are categories of domestic violence and examples of what this could entail:
Mental and Emotional Abuse – this can be harder to spot because it often doesn’t leave physical marks like a bruise. Mental and emotional abuse is the repetitive and intentional use of non-physical actions that manipulate, hurt, scare or intimidate another person
There are many more, yet these are often the most common within mental and emotional abuse.
Physical abuse is the most known type of domestic violence because it leaves physical marks and scars. There are many forms of physical abuse, this can include:
As you have read, there are so many forms of domestic violence, and this is not all physical.
Economical Abuse is when someone uses money or items to control someone, this can be items such as phones/computers or money
There are other methods of economic abuse, however these are the some of the behaviours above.
Harassment is when a partner or other person show unwanted behaviour that makes you feel humiliated, intimidated or offensive.
Sexual Abuse is when someone takes advantage or uses force to commit an unwanted sexual act on another person. Some examples of this are:
What is often not known, is where someone can receive support if they are in a domestically violent relationship, and what that support will look like. So, lets break this down and look at the support options available.
England Freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
Northern Ireland Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline 0808 802 1414 freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
Scotland Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline 0800 027 1234
Wales Live Fear Free 0808 80 10 800
UK-wide The Men’s Advice Line run by Respect is a confidential helpline specifically for male victims. 0808 801 0327
Women’s Aid If you are experiencing domestic abuse or are worried about friends or family, you can access the Women’s Aid live chat service 7 days a week, 10am to 6pm.
Victim Support run these services for victims and survivors of any abuse or crime, regardless of when it occurred or if the crime was reported to the police:
Helping Survivors is an advocacy centre that aims to assist anyone who has been victimised by sexual assault or abuse. They offer a range of helpful resources, including their latest guide on domestic violence and sexual abuse.
It can be difficult and sometimes frustrating when you know someone, especially someone you care for is in an abusive relationship. Often, despite being told that they are in a toxic environment or relationship, it needs to be their decision to leave. It goes back to the previous statement that they have been conditioned that the abuse of the behaviour is now normal. Not only this, being in a domestically abusive relationship makes the person feel worthless, less confident and they can often carry shame and embarrassment for being in this situation also. It is important to try and offer support in a non-judgemental way, so they do not feel shame or embarrassment about the situation.
They may not be ready to admit that there is a problem or even see that the behaviour would be classed as domestic abuse, therefore information is key! Offer them some local domestic violence numbers they can call for support, offer them some reading material that describes domestic abuse or even just offer an ear to listen if you are able to do this. If you ever feel someone vulnerable such as a child or someone with learning difficulties is at risk of harm due to the domestic violence always report this to the police so the appropriate checks can be completed to make sure the vulnerable person who can't ask for help, receives it.
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