What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic Abuse is a crime which affects individuals and families from all backgrounds. It can be difficult to identify and even harder to accept, especially for the person experiencing it. People sometimes misunderstand domestic abuse and think that it is only physical violence when actually it includes many more patterns of behaviour that are designed and perpetrated to exercise control and power.
Emotional or psychological abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Its aim is to chip away at the confidence and independence of victims with the intention of making them compliant and limiting their ability to leave. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming and shaming, isolation, intimidation, threats of violence and controlling behaviour.
Rape and sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. In fact evidence suggests that 45% of all rape is committed by current partners and these incidents are less likely to come to the attention of the police than those committed by strangers . Any situation in which an individual is forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. In addition, individuals whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are thought to be at a higher risk of experiencing multiple and escalating assaults. Research also indicates that people who are raped by their partners are likely to suffer severe psychological effects because of the prolonged level of fear they are likely to experience.
Economic or financial abuse aims to limit a victim’s ability to access help. Tactics may include controlling the finances; withholding money or credit cards; making someone unreasonably account for money spent/petrol used; exploiting assets; withholding basic necessities; preventing someone from working; deliberately running up debts; forcing someone to work against their will and sabotaging someone’s job.
‘Honour’ based violence (HBV) is a form of domestic abuse which is perpetrated in the name of so called ‘honour’. The honour code which it refers to is set at the discretion of male relatives. Women who do not abide by the ‘rules’ are then punished for bringing shame on the family. Infringements may include a woman having a boyfriend; rejecting a forced marriage; pregnancy outside of marriage; interfaith relationships; seeking divorce, inappropriate dress or make-up and even kissing in a public place.
Forced marriage is a marriage that is performed under duress and without the full and informed consent or free will of both parties. Victims of forced marriage may be the subject of physical violence, rape, abduction, false imprisonment, enslavement, emotional abuse, and murder. It is important not to confuse ‘forced’ marriage with ‘arranged’ marriage. In the instance of an ‘arranged’ marriage both parties freely consent.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), sometimes referred to as female circumcision, involves females, usually under the age of 16, undergoing procedures wrongly believed to ensure their chastity and marital fidelity. Health professionals are often best placed to identify women who have experienced FGM.
Elder Abuse is where harm is done, or distress caused, to an older person within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. Most victims of elder abuse are older women with a chronic illness or disability.
Teen Abuse relates to young people. 1 in 5 teenage girls have been assaulted by a boyfriend, young women are more likely to experience sexual violence then other age groups, young women with older partners are at increased risk of victimisation. 40% of our young people are already being subjected to relationship abuse in their teenage years.
Domestic abuse during pregnancy is a major public health concern with serious consequences for maternal and infant health. The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reports that one in six pregnant women will experience domestic violence. Evidence also suggests that around 30% of domestic violence starts or worsens during pregnancy. Where abuse occurs during pregnancy, injury to the abdomen, breasts and genitals are common.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of whether they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Every individual’s experience of domestic abuse will be unique. However gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are likely to face additional concerns around homophobia and gender discrimination. They may also be concerned that they will not be recognised as victims or believed and taken seriously. Abusers may also be able to control their victims through the threat of ‘outing’.
Male Victims Domestic abuse is often talked about in a gendered manner, but it is important to recognise that men experience domestic abuse as victims too. Men’s experiences are likely to be significantly different to women.
Stalking may be perpetrated by strangers or acquaintances. Stalking is most often committed against women by former or current partners. Any allegation of stalking should be taken very seriously as it is synonymous with increased risk of serious harm or murder.
Children living in households with abusers have historically been considered as the “hidden victims” of domestic abuse as many agencies focus upon the needs of adults. However, evidence has shown that there are significant implications for children in the household.
Coercive control Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening 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.