What Is Domestic Abuse?

Contrary to popular belief, domestic abuse does not have to include physical violence and can also take the form of emotional, sexual, psychological,  and financial abuse. It typically occurs within intimate or family relationships.

In all forms, it involves controlling behaviour. If you are feeling compelled to change your behaviour because you fear the reaction of a partner or family member, this is deemed to be an abusive relationship.

Physical Abuse

Physical abusers will seek to harm their victim through actions such as punching, slapping, biting, kicking, hair pulling, burning and strangling.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves being threatened, forced or intimidated into performing sexual acts or having sexual intercourse, rape and/or degrading treatment relating to your sexuality. It is a form of physical abuse.

Emotional Abuse

Psychological abuse can be just as devastating as physical abuse but it is often less obvious for victims to realise that they are being abused. Emotional or psychological abuse is intended to wear you down and erode your self-worth and independence. It will often lead to depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Common types of emotional abuse include:

  • Verbal Abuse – name calling, shouting, mocking, accusations, destructive criticism and verbally threatening behaviour can be forms of emotional abuse.
  • Isolation – Isolating behaviour includes controlling where you can and cannot go, monitoring your phone and emails, cutting you off from your family and friends and even shutting you in the house.
  • Harassment – Following you when you are out of the house and repeatedly checking up on you are both forms of emotional abuse.
  • Threatening Behaviour – This can be physically intimidating, such as breaking things, destroying your possessions and punching the walls but it can also have a psychological basis, such as threatening to harm you, your loved ones and your pets and claiming that they will commit suicide if you leave.
  • Denial – Abusers will often twist the truth to make their victim feel that it is their fault. They may also cry, beg for forgiveness, promise that it will never happen again and/or make threats about suicide if you try to leave them.

Financial Abuse

If your partner controls your finances, limits or prevents your access to money, makes you justify every penny that you spend, prevents you from working and/or steals money from you, this is also a form of abuse.

The Cycle of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse usually happens in cycles, which can be loosely categorised as:

Abuse – Abusers will seek to control their victim through control and/or intimidation. This may be physical or may be purely psychological or financial.

Guilt – Afterwards, abusers start to feel guilty. This is rarely because they realise the effects of their behaviour; their guilt usually has more to do with fear of the abuse coming to light.

Excuses – Abusers will often have various excuses to try to justify their behaviour. This can be anything from having had a bad day to being entirely the fault of the victim but they will never admit responsibility for their actions.

Normality – Following an abusive incident, there will often be a period of relative normality in which things appear to get back on track. Abusers will often be incredibly charming, loving and apologetic during this period and victims will often be convinced that the abuser has changed and that history will not repeat itself. In reality, it is just the calm before the storm.

The cycle with then begin again with the next example of abusive behaviour.

How to Know If You Are Being Abused?

Being able to answer “yes” to any of the following questions is a common indication of domestic abuse:

  • Do you live in fear of a partner or family member and their reaction to situations?
  • Do you feel as though you are constantly walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting or enraging them?
  • Does a partner or family member undermine you, belittle you and/or try to control you?
  • Are you frequently embarrassed and humiliated by a partner or family member in front of other people?
  • Are you being made to feel as though you are to blame for a partner or family member’s abusive behaviour?
  • Does your partner act jealously and possessively?

Who Is Likely to Be Affected By Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not limited to heterosexual relationships; it can also occur in same-sex relationships.

Is Domestic Abuse a Crime?

Certain types of domestic abuse are considered to be crimes. This includes physical abuse, sexual assault, rape, threatening behaviour, stalking and being made to fear violence.

Getting Help and Support for Domestic Abuse

It is important to understand that as a victim of domestic abuse, you are not to blame for the situation. Many abusers are adept at playing the blame game and will often succeed in convincing their victim that they are at fault. This in itself is another form of domestic abuse and can prevent victims from seeking help to leave an abusive situation.

At Derby Women’s Centre, we know that reaching out for support can take an enormous amount of courage. We offer support to leave abusive situations, including help to find places in refuges.

We also offer support to help victims of domestic abuse to rebuild their lives. This includes counselling, the Freedom Programme support group, free legal support and a range of confidence-building and therapeutic activities. More details of our support can be found on our website here – Domestic Violence / Abuse Support 

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