Domestic abuse can affect anyone in any type of relationship. You should not feel ashamed, guilty or embarrassed (although all of these feelings are very common).
It is important to understand that domestic abuse is not just about physical violence. Psychological /emotional abuse is very damaging and it can be easy to minimise because the effects may not be as visible as with physical violence.
The UK Government's definition of domestic violence and abuse is -
‘Any incident or pattern of controlling, coercive or threating 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' (September 2012). This can encompass, but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
- Physical – e.g. kicking, biting, spitting, slapping, punching, choking and strangulation, using weapons
- Sexual - e.g. sexual acts that humiliate or degrade you against your will
- Financial – e.g. keeping you short of money, monitoring your spending
- Emotional/Psychological - e.g. making threats, calling you names, putting you down in front of people
There is more detailed information on the emotional and psychological elements of domestic abuse below.
Recently, much attention has been given to the use of coercive control within abusive relationships. This refers to a pattern of behaviours used to take away a person's freedom to do day-to-day things and break down their sense of personhood. There are a number of tactics used to achieve this:
- Dominance – e.g. telling you what to do and expecting you to obey without question; making decisions for you and your family that you do not agree with. You may feel that you are being treated like a child or a possession.
- Humiliation – e.g. using name-calling, saying things to shame you and/or saying or doing things to humiliate you in public. These tactics affect your self-esteem, they may leave you feeling worthless and powerless.
- Threats – e.g. threatening to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members or pets if you leave, threatening to commit suicide or to have your children removed.
- Intimidation – e.g. threatening looks or body language, shouting (in your face), smashing or destroying property in front of you, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. Sending a clear message that if you don't do what you’re told, there will be consequences.
- Denial and blame – e.g. making excuses for their unacceptable behavior, blaming their abusive behaviour on their childhood, work pressure or money worries, saying that they were drunk. They may also blame you for their behaviour or deny that it occurred.
- Isolation - e.g. keeping you away from family and friends, making you ask permission to do things, go places or see people. Also keeping you away from possible help by cancelling appointments, accompanying you to appointments or answering questions for you. All of this can make it very difficult for you to tell anyone what is happening.
- Surveillance /Micro surveillance - e.g. stalking, monitoring your phone calls and checking your bank account, diaries or personal items.
The experience of coercive control is closely linked to developing psychological problems. These might include anxiety and panic attacks, depression, obsessive-compulsive problems or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The resources on the right can help you think through your situation and keep you and your family safe.