Domestic Violence: What is it and what can it look like?

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Health Assured team

09 March 2022

Some facts.

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 EAP 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 violence 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 violence 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.

 

So, What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?

As stated above, as a counsellor with experience of working with both men and women who have endured domestic violence, 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

  • Verbal abuse is when someone uses language and name calling as a way to intimidate and insult you
  • Destructive criticism - name calling and making constant sarcastic comments which can affect someone’s self-esteem and confidence especially over a long period of time
  • Being made to feel guilty – this can be known as ‘pressure tactics’, acts such as sulking or ignoring you to make you feel you have done something wrong. This can also range to emotional blackmail such as the other person threatening to kill themselves, so you feel bad or ‘give in’ to what they want
  • Telling you what you can and can’t do
  • Not listening and not responding to you when you are talking
  • Not helping with childcare or housework and expecting this to be something you do on a constant basis
  • Threatening to report you to the police or social services unless you comply with demands
  • Making you feel as though you are not good enough to care for yourself or even your child physically or mentally and threaten your child will be taken away from you if you are not doing something they expect or ask
  • Isolation – monitoring or blocking calls or other forms of contact to you from family, friends and professionals
  • Isolating you from friends and family or making you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with other people
  • Disrespecting you on a constant basis by putting you down and making you feel inadequate or ‘worthless’
  • Lying to family and friends about you so they have a negative view of you or think you are the ‘problem’
  • Gaslighting you, this is when you are made to feel you are wrong even though you know you are right, this can include making you feel you have created an incident or an issue

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:

  • punching
  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Spitting
  • Pulling hair
  • Pinching you or scratching you
  • Strangling or suffocating you

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

  • Withholding your phone so you cannot call for help of family, friends or professionals
  • Destroying your items such as your phone, computer or even car
  • Removing your means of transport on purpose so you cannot leave, or you feel trapped within the situation
  • Withholding your money and not letting you have access to this
  • Using manipulation or control so you do not spend money for pleasure for yourself or you are made to feel guilty for doing so
  • Removing your bank card purposely

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.

  • Following you either in or out of the home
  • Not allowing you to have privacy, opening your mail or going through your phone
  • Embarrassing you in public
  • Writing on social media or other network platforms about you
  • Checking on your social media or other network platforms constantly

 

Sexual Abuse is when someone takes advantage or uses force to commit an unwanted sexual act on another person. Some examples of this are:

  • Unwanted touching
  • Attempted rape
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Demanding sex
  • Demanding sex after a violent incident
  • Withholding sex as a form of control
  • Not allowing you to use birth control
  • Refusing to use safe sex practices

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.

 

What Support Is Available for Domestic Violence?

  • You can speak to your own GP; they will discuss the situation and signpost you to the most appropriate services.
  • You can google ‘domestic violence centre’ followed by the area you live, in every town or city there will be a centre that offers you in the moment support, support groups and even long-term counselling services. There may be a waiting list, however you can receive other support through drop-in sessions and group sessions for support
  • You can find a local service that also offers the ‘freedom programme’, this can be an external company, or it can be through the domestic violence centre. The freedom programme offers you the knowledge and understanding of the different types of abuse, what abusers will often say, do and how they would present themselves.
  • You can speak to your EAP programme as they also offer a one-day programme with awareness of domestic violence, or even to speak to them for in the moment emotional support
  • You can speak to social services if you have children and are concerned of the environment you and the children are in because of domestic violence
  • There are national services that offer you in the moment support such as: 

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.

helpline@womensaid.org.uk

Victim Support

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:

  • A free, independent and confidential 24/7 Support line 08 08 16 89 111 and live chat service.
  • You can attend participating pharmacies and seek immediate help by saying ‘ANI’, which stands for Action Needed Immediately’. They will offer you some support in a private place and offer you a phone to use to call for support through family and professional services
  • Safe Spaces are also available in a wide network of stores that are apart and aware of the battle against domestic violence, offer you a safe space to escape any danger and they also respond to Ask for ANI and they will provide you with a phone to call support – stores that are linked with this are Boots, Morrisons, Superdrug and pharmacies
  • You can speak to your local police services, and ask for support in contacting the courts to get an injunction to protect yourself or your child from a partner or family member

 

What if you know someone is in a domestically violent relationship or situation?

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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