Domestic abuse is defined as; physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse that usually takes place within the home, and is perpetrated by a partner, ex-partner, family member or carer.
There are different signs of abuse
The reality is harsh. In the UK two people die each week at the hands of their partners or ex-partners. And a person is at most risk of death or serious injury at the point of leaving or up to a year after. Physical abuse is any kind of bodily contact with the intention of controlling or hurting you. It includes acts like pushing, slapping, hitting, hair-pulling, spitting, punching, kicking and biting.
Sexual abuse is when someone is forced, pressurised or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity. Unwanted sexual behaviour can happen in intimate relationships. If consent isn’t given, it’s sexual abuse.
This ranges from verbal abuse and constant criticism, to more subtle tactics such as repeated disapproval, or even the refusal to ever be pleased.
Continual insults, accusations and insinuations erode a person until they lose all sense of self-esteem and confidence. It often has more long-lasting and profound effects than any physical harm. Psychological and emotional abuse is sometimes called ‘intimate terrorism’.
Financial abuse involves using money as a way to limit and control a partner’s current or future actions, and to take away independence and freedom of choice. It can include using credit cards without permission, putting contractual obligations in their partner’s name, gambling with family assets, or stopping their partner from getting or keeping a job.
Signs of Trauma
People who are experiencing domestic abuse can sometimes behave in ways that are difficult to understand. The effects of trauma can result in behaviours such as the following:
- Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem.
- Learned helplessness. The client may have come to the conclusion that they are safer to stay in the situation than to leave
- Hypervigilance. The client may be constantly alert to potential threats, and need to carefully consider any course of action in light of risk and safety
- Avoidance. The client may find it challenging to accept help
- Hostility and irritability can be an outward signs of elevated stress hormones
It is likely that they have spent a considerable length of time balancing risk and safety. The victim is an expert in the abuser’s behaviour and possible responses, and will be used to carefully measuring the risk associated with any suggested intervention. They are likely to know that the most dangerous time in any abusive relationship is the point of separation, and will need to carefully plan around it, often taking into account their children and housing needs. Victims need the patience of those around them, and the understanding that they will know the best way to manage their own risk.
Having a caseworker can help a victim to navigate and safety plan. You can self-refer here.