What is Domestic Violence & Abuse?
The UK government’s definition of ‘Domestic Violence and Abuse (DV & A ) is “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. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional.”
Any person can experience DV & A regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, disability or lifestyle. DV & A can include physical and sexual assault and Honour Based Violence, as well as emotional, psychological, financial abuse, stalking, controlling and coercive behaviour and Forced Marriage.
Recognising Domestic Violence & Abuse
Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: This may include shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling and threatening.
Pressure tactics: This may include sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you and telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
Disrespect: This may include persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking and refusing to help with childcare or housework.
Breaking trust: This may include lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships and breaking promises or shared agreements.
Isolation: This may include monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go and preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
Denial: This may include saying that the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being gentle and patient in public, crying and begging for forgiveness and saying it will never happen again.
Stalking and Harassment: This may include following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, checking to see who has telephoned you and embarrassing you in public.
Threats: This may include making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun and threatening to kill or harm you and the children.
Sexual violence: This may include using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex and any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
Physical violence: This may include punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning or strangling.
I’m worried about someone else
This information has been reproduced with kind permission of Women’s Aid, May 2018. It is available in its latest format here, and remains the copyright of Women’s Aid.
The chances are high that you may know a family member, colleague, cousin or friend who is experiencing abuse behind closed doors.
Unless you are trying to help someone who has been very open about their experiences it may be difficult for you to acknowledge the problem directly.
However, there are some basic steps that you can take to assist and give support to a friend, family member, colleague, neighbour or anyone you know who confides in you that they are experiencing domestic abuse.
How can you help
- Listen to them, try to understand and take care not to blame them. Tell them that they are not alone and that there are many people in the same situation
- Acknowledge that it takes strength to trust someone enough to talk to them about experiencing abuse. Give them time to talk, but don’t push them to go into too much detail if they don’t want to.
Acknowledge that they are in a frightening and very difficult situation.
- Tell them that no one deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what their abuser has told them. Nothing they can do or say can justify the abuser’s behaviour.
- Support them as a friend. Encourage them to express their feelings, whatever they are. Allow them to make their own decisions.
- Don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they are not ready to do this. This is their decision.
- Ask if they have suffered physical harm. If so, offer to go with them to a hospital or to see their GP.
- Help them to report the assault to the police if they choose to do so.
- Be ready to provide information on organisations that offer help to abused women, men and their children. Explore the available options with them. Tell them about the Leeds Domestic Violence Helpline 0113 246 0401, and how to access this website.
- Go with them to visit a solicitor if they are ready to take this step.
- Plan safe strategies for leaving an abusive relationship.
- Let them create their own boundaries of what they think is safe and what is not safe; don’t urge them to follow any strategies that they express doubt about.
- Offer your friend the use of your address and/or telephone number to leave information and messages, and tell them you will look after an emergency bag for them, if they want this.
- Look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Ensure that you do not put yourself into a dangerous situation; for example, do not offer to talk to the abuser about your friend or let yourself be seen by the abuser as a threat to their relationship.