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Domestic abuse

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour on the part of the abuser designed to control their partner. It can happen at any point in a relationship, including after you have split up.

Anyone forced to change their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner or ex-partner’s reaction is experiencing abuse.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.

It also includes issues of concern to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities such as so-called ‘honour based violence’, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Domestic abuse is never the fault of the person who is experiencing it and it does not mean they are weak at all.

Spotting the signs of domestic abuse

There are many signs to look out for if you believe you are being abused by your partner. Some signs may be more obvious than others.

You should ask yourself the following questions to help you discern whether you are being abused by your partner:

  • Is your partner jealous and possessive?
  • Are they charming one minute and abusive the next?
  • Do they tell you what to wear, where to go, who to see?
  • Do they constantly put you down?
  • Do they play mind games and make you doubt your judgment?
  • Do they control your money, or make sure you are dependent on them for everyday things?
  • Do they pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to?
  • Are you starting to walk on eggshells to avoid making them angry?
  • Do they control your access to medicine, devices or care that you need?
  • Do they monitor or track your movements or messages?
  • Do they monitor or track your movements or messages?
  • Do they use anger and intimidation to frighten and control you?

Forms of domestic abuse

  • Psychological abuse
    Includes name-calling, threats and manipulation, blaming you for the abuse or ‘gaslighting’ you.

  • Economic abuse
    Controlling your access to money or resources. They might take your wages, stop you working, or put you in debt.

  • Sexual abuse
    Doesn’t have to be physical. They might manipulate or coerce you into doing things you don’t want to do.

  • Coercive abuse
    When an abuser uses a pattern of behaviour over time to exert power and control. It is a criminal offence.

  • Physical abuse
    Not only hitting. They might restrain you or throw objects. They might pinch or shove you and claim it’s a ‘joke’.

  • Tech abuse
    They might send abusive texts, demand access to your devices, track you with spyware, or share images of you online.

Will they change?

It is natural to hope that your partner will change, or that the abuse will stop. Often, an abusive partner will be very sorry after an incident of abuse. They may beg for forgiveness. If you have left them, they may become very charming and convince you to return. They may be on their best behaviour for weeks, or even months, before they become abusive again.

The unfortunate truth is that domestic abuse usually gets worse over time. There are perpetrator programmes for abusers who want to take responsibility for their abuse and change their behaviour for good. However, it is important that you prioritise your safety and wellbeing, and that of your children.

Myths and excuses

“Alcohol, drugs and stress make them violent”

Abusers are also violent when sober. Many people who drink never use violence. These are all excuses.

“The victim would leave if it was really bad”

There are many overlapping reasons why victims may stay. Leaving is difficult and takes time. It is a process.

“Abusers grow up in violent homes so they are not to blame”

Violence is a choice an abuser makes; they alone are responsible. It is unrelated to childhood.

“Domestic abuse only happens to women”

Men can be victims of domestic violence - gender does not determine whether you can be a victim or not. It can happen to anyone regardless of where they live, their profession, or social background. However, women are more likely to be victims, based on

data from the Office for National Statistics .

“Some people deserve it”

Abusers often claim their partner ‘makes them do it’. This is victim-blaming. The abuser alone is responsible.

“They just lose their temper sometimes”

Abusers say they ‘see red’ sometimes – but they are very much in control, using multiple methods to abuse.

“Some victims like violence”

Victims do not like violence. Most live in fear and terror. This is victim-blaming.

“You’re lucky to have them”

Whether your abuser is also your caregiver, or presents themself as the perfect breadwinner, victims often hear they are lucky to have someone ‘looking after them’. But you deserve to make choices about your own life.

“Domestic abuse is a private matter”

Domestic abuse is a crime. It is not an individual but a social problem. We all need to speak out against it.