Why we should talk about domestic violence
You might wonder why “Let’s talk about Domestic Violence.” I never imagined having my hair ripped out at the roots, so hard, I had to restyle my hair to cover huge gaps the size of a 10 pence? Or being punched in the stomach, so hard it took the breath right out of me and made me physically sick? The times I just curled up in a ball and wished it would stop; wished he would stop? That’s why – Let’s talk about domestic violence.
If just one person reads my message and plucks up the courage to leave a violent relationship, it might just save a life.
“As one person I cannot change the world but maybe I can change the world of one person.”Paul Shane Spear.
Domestic violence statistics
According to the UK Office of National Statistics 2020, in the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic violence in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men).
More than one-third of women (me included – and you can read my story starting here if you want) and one in 12 men have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime — anyone would agree that’s far too many.
I really didn’t want to mention the damn virus, but news from around the world is that Domestic Violence cases are soaring as lockdown takes its toll. Here in the UK, more than 25 organisations helping domestic violence victims have reported a surge in calls during lockdown and an increase in their caseload since the start of the UK’s coronavirus epidemic. Mark Townsend, The Guardian, 2020. S0, yes, let’s talk about domestic violence.
Myths about domestic violence
She’d leave if it was really bad — there are lots of reasons someone might stay. Leaving really isn’t easy, it’s a process and it takes time. It took me almost three years and then — I was ready to leave.
Domestic abuse only happens to certain women — You might have thought so, but it happens to all women, regardless of their education status, their profession, or where they live — I never thought it would happen to me!
Some women deserve it — oh, my word, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard this. Men often claim their wife/partner ‘made them do it’. No — the abuser alone is responsible, not the victim.
Some women like violent men — I doubt that very much, as I know I constantly lived in fear and this is just blaming the victim — again.
Stress, alcohol and drugs make the men violent — No. They’re violent when sober too and lots of men get stressed and drink without becoming threatening or violent. My ex would say he couldn’t remember the beatings, he’d blacked out because of the drugs. That was just an excuse.
Domestic abuse is between the two people concerned, it’s private — Wrong! DV is a crime, it’s a social problem not an individual one, and we all need to shout out against it.
OK, so what is domestic violence?
It’s any behaviour that is violent, threatening, controlling or intended to make you or your family feel unsafe and scared.
Domestic violence (DV) refers to violence, abuse and intimidation between people who are are currently or have previously been in an intimate relationship.
The perpetrator (more often a male) uses violence to dominate and control the other person. This causes dread, fear, physical harm and/or psychological harm.
DV is used for one thing only: and that’s to gain and maintain control over you. Abusers never “play fair.” An abuser uses shame, guilt, fear, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you right where they want you — under their thumb.
“You are so brave and quiet, I forget you are suffering.”Ernest Hemingway
Domestic violence is also commonly known as:
- relationship violence
- physical assault
- intimate partner violence
- emotional abuse
- sexual assault
- verbal abuse
- financial abuse
- family violence
- technology-facilitated, online abuse
- social abuse – isolating someone from their family and friends
- spiritual abuse – stopping someone from practicing their religion
- child abuse
I’m sure that various organisations around the world could add to this list. But for brevity today, let’s concentrate on the DV between two people in an intimate relationship.
What you can do about Domestic Violence
If you’re asking yourself what you can do to help, see the seven steps (listed below) you can take to help stop domestic violence in your own home, at a friend’s or a loved one’s and in your community:
- Knowing the signs. DV knows no boundaries and can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, or background, educated, uneducated. DV can start pretty early on in a relationship and sometimes it might take months, years or even long after you’ve separated.
There are some warning signs to be wary of – an abuser might exhibit some of these at any point in your relationship or someone else’s:
- Discouraging you from spending time away from your family or friends
- Being jealous of your friends or time you spend away from him
- Telling you what to wear or not
- Making you feel guilty for any problems in your relationship
- Being charming and witty one minute and intimidating or threatening the next
- Threatening violence against you, or someone you love to ensure you comply; do as you’re told
- Embarrassing or shaming you, making snide remarks when in company of others
- Pressuring you to have sex, even if you don’t want to
- Intimidating you physically, possibly with weapons
- Taking charge of you money, controlling banks accounts so you have little or no access
- Stopping you from working, or if you do work, being jealous of your colleagues and watching what time you get home
- Intentionally damaging your property; jewellery, clothes or your car
- Do you always feel like you’re walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting him/her?
How to help someone experiencing domestic violence
- Check-in with loved ones, friends, or neighbours. If you know someone is in danger, reach out regularly, either in person or by phone to ensure their safety.
- Be a shoulder to cry on; a good listener. If someone ever tells you in confidence that they’re experiencing DV, just listen actively without interrupting and don’t pass judgment. Trust what they’re saying is true and ask if there’s anything you could do to help.
- Be there. If someone you know is afraid of the violence escalating or is thinking about leaving, be ready to help. Keep your phone nearby with the sound on, make sure you’ve got petrol in your car and perhaps have a pre-planned escape and somewhere you can meet.
- Have resources available. You might help them get a bag made up with necessities and have it ready to hand or keep it somewhere safe for them. You could help by doing some of the running around needed to arrange things like a mobile phone and sorting out any finances.
- Write it down. Document every incident you either witness or know of, including the time, date, where it happened, and any injuries. This information might prove useful if at a later date you or someone you know wants to proceed to court.
- Know numbers to your local shelters. You or someone you know might need immediate refuge. Keep numbers to a hotline in your phone — the UK freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
- Shout out about Domestic Violence. Help a local DV service in raising awareness in your community. Talk to your family, friends, colleagues, at work meetings, and local community groups. Organise posters for your workplace rest areas.
Some good news
Only a few months ago, our Home Office Secretary, Priti Patel announced help for domestic abuse victims during lockdown. She’s launched a new campaign to help victims of domestic abuse after a national helpline reported a 120% increase in people seeking help during the lockdown. Patel said the data was ‘extremely concerning’ and she told victims ‘you are not alone’.
Over to you
So, if it’s happening to you, you’re not alone and help is available. Do you know someone who’s experiencing domestic violence? Would you know what to look for and be able to help some now? I’d appreciate your thoughts and I’m happy to answer any questions. Let’s talk about Domestic Violence.
This article is one of a series, looking at the various forms of abuse, which I hope you’ll find interesting and useful.