What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been an intimate partner or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and
control with the use or threat of violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial or economic abuse
- Harassment and stalking
- Online or digital abuse
Domestic abuse includes so-called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. We are here to help and support you, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call us now on: 01793 610610.
Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual which takes place within close relationship, usually by partners, ex-partners or family members.
As well as physical violence, domestic abuse can involve a wide range of abusive and controlling behaviour, including threats, harassment, financial control and emotional abuse.
Physical violence is only one aspect of domestic abuse and an abuser’s behaviour can vary, from being very brutal and degrading to small actions that leave you humiliated. Those living with domestic abuse are often left feeling isolated and exhausted. Domestic abuse also includes cultural issues such as honour based violence.
We understand sexual violence to include rape, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, prostitution, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, sexual bullying and sexual abuse within partnerships.
Sexual violence impacts everyone in different ways. However you are coping right now, this will be a natural response for you. There is not a right or wrong way to cope.
Some women tell us they feel unable to sleep due to nightmares or have trouble trusting other people around them.
Some survivors feel shame, blame and self-hatred. Others may feel angry, tearful or suicidal. Some feelings may come up months or years later or something that happens in our life will ‘trigger’ or remind us of the abuse. We encourage you to seek support however you are feeling.
There are many ways that you can be abused and the main goal of domestic abuse is to gain power and control over you in order to ensure compliance with the abusers needs.
It can often start off small, with lots of different events that gradually chip away or erode your confidence. It can sometimes make you feel that you are losing your “sense of self” and that you can’t trust your own judgement or feel you don’t have the right to make decisions.
Here are some examples of what you may be experiencing
- Throwing/smashing objects
- Using weapons and other objects to cause injury.
- Requiring you to account for every penny of household or other funds
- Withholding/taking money
- Putting you on an impossible ‘budget’
- Taking money/controlling access to money
- Having own accounts unknown to you
- Not letting you work or undermining efforts to find work/study
- Making you beg for money
- Not paying bills
- Having loans and debts in the victim’s name
- Checking milometer
- Blaming you for their problems
- Withholding affection as a form of punishment
- Calling you names
- Telling you that you can’t cope without them
- Putting you down
- Demanding constant attention
- Blaming you
- Intimidating you
- Making you feel like you are going crazy
- Threatening to harm self
- Putting you down
- Denying/minimising the abuse
- Threats to harm others (incl. Children and pets)
- Using threatening looks and gestures
- Forcing you to engage in unwanted sexual acts
- Refusing to practice safe sex
- Treating you like a sex object
- Withholding sex and affection
- Demanding sex
- Criticising/discounting feelings regarding sex
- Making you wear clothes you haven’t chosen
- Sexual name-calling
An abusive person is rarely abusive at the beginning of a relationship, as very few people will get involved with someone who is abusive from the very start. In this way, some abusers need to charm their victim in order to ensnare them. There has to be a hook.
Healthy excitement at a new potential partner is good. However, here are some warning signs of an abusive relationship that you can look out for:
- abusive relationships often very quickly become intense and fast paced
- early, premature commitment
- abusive partners often try to “take over” the woman’s life, for example by offering to solve her accommodation, child or work-related problems
- abusers often try to disable women through the support that they offer, stepping into the decision making process and encouraging reliance on him/her very early on
These gradual attempt to isolate women and gain control over them by using charm and jealousy/possession disguised as care sets the picture for an abuser to begin using behaviours in order to keep the woman under his/her control.
- Daily life revolves around what he/she needs/wants
- They believe they are the head of the household
- They treat me more like a servant than a partner/family member
- If he/she ever helps around the house, they think I should thank them (or they never help around the house)
- When he/she wants something, they want it NOW (including sex)
- He/she talks about him/herself all the time
- He/she rarely (or never) asks about me or how I’m feeling
- Things were okay until the baby came, then when I had to spend less time with him/her their behaviour changed
- He/she is easily bored, especially with things that interest me
- If he/she has a problem, everyone has to drop everything to help him/her
- He/she believes they are smarter than most other people
- He/she is extremely critical of people, even children
- He/she makes it clear (or implies) that they are better than I am
- He/she is easily offended or feels “dissed” at minor things
- When something goes wrong, it’s never his/her fault
- He/she makes fun of me and calls me demeaning names
- He/she makes fun of the kids when they make a mistake
- He/she can never apologize or say he was wrong about anything
- He/she thinks anyone who disagrees with him/her is wrong or see anyone else’s viewpoint if it’s different than his/hers
- Even when I’m really upset (like somebody close to me died), he/she expects their daily routine will continue
- If something nice happens for me (e.g., I pass my driving test) he/she can’t be happy for me
Domestic abuse is different for everyone and each experience is individual, but there is often a cycle to abuse. Domestic abuse often become more frequent and severe over time. Do you recognise this cycle?
1. Tensions Building
You might feel like you are ‘walking on egg shells’, or being given ‘the silent treatment’. You might become fearful and feel the need to calm the abuser. You may feel tense, embarased, afraid, angry or humiliated.
Verbal, emotional, physical abuse, blaming, threats, intimidation. You may feel afraid, trapped, hopeless or numb.
The abuser apologises, gives excuses, blames you for their actions, denies the abuse occurred or says that it wasn’t that bad. You may feel relieved, angry, guilty or hopeful.
Incident is “forgotten”, no abuse is taking place and it’s like the “honeymoon phase”
When the person who is abusive towards you is also providing you with the basics you need to live (money, safety, peace, happiness etc), trauma bonding can occur.
Trauma bonding is a strong emotional connection that develops between the victim and a perpetrator in an abusive relationship. This develops because in an abusive relationship, an abuser can be frightening and hurtful but he/she may then be intermittently kind, e.g. giving presents and affection, or even stopping the abuse for a period of time. In these moments, the victim feels a rush of gratitude and love for her abuser, and feels relief that the abuse has ended. The rescuer and the tormentor are the very same person, which means the bond becomes deeper than other healthy relationships as she starts to depend on him to survive.
Through trauma bonding, the victim can lose their own beliefs and identity and instead takes on the beliefs of their captor in order to survive. She believes that his/her behaviour is the result of a flaw in herself, and turns inwards to try and resolve this and works harder to please him or her. Often, a victims’ sole goal becomes the abusers approval. Interactions with others become hollow and superficial as a result. A woman will often become less argumentative in order to survive.
Trauma bonding makes it easier for a victim to survive within the relationship, but it can severely undermine the victim’s sense of self, their ability to accurately see danger, and impairs their ability to see alternatives to their situation.
Once a trauma bond is established it can become difficult for the victim to break free of the relationship.
A victim must feel safe and out of “survival mode” before they will be able to focus on their own wellbeing. However, the good news is that recovery from a trauma bond is possible. To survive this, the victim would need to stop contact with the perpetrator and focus on putting herself and her recovery first. Getting in touch with an organisation like SWA is an important step forwards in recognizing domestic abuse and understanding that it was not your fault.