Domestic Abuse - What You Need To Know
Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and/or violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner. Domestic abuse is overwhelmingly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. It doesn’t matter how old someone is, what race or ethnicity they are, what class they are, whether or not they are disabled, or whether they have children – anyone can be a victim of abuse.
Often when people think of domestic abuse they think of physical violence, but domestic abuse is very often so much more than that. For many women who live with domestic abuse there will be no scars, bruises or broken bones, but for some it can take their life. (Source – Scottish Women’s Aid)
- Psychological & emotional abuse – controlling & coercive behaviour, criticism, isolating their partner from friends & family.
- Physical abuse – punching, slapping, throttling or kicking.
- Financial abuse – depriving their partner of money, monitoring spending, controlling bank accounts & bills or not letting their partner work
- Sexual abuse – sexual activity against their partner’s will (rape, sexual assault, degrading sexual practices).
- Digital abuse – monitoring mobile phones, using social media to contact or abuse her, using tracker apps
Staying at home, self-isolating and social distancing during this period may mean that you have to spend more time with a partner who is harming you. They may be using the need to self-isolate or socially distance as a way to continue or increase their control of you.
Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline have produced some great resources about dealing with abuse during the Covid-19 crisis.
It is often difficult to be sure if your relationship is controlling or abuse in nature. Ask yourself these questions to see…..
Is your partner charming one minute and aggressive & frightening the next?
- Is he excessively jealous and possessive?
- Are you and your family “walking on eggshells” around and doing anything to keep the peace with him?
- Is he stopping you from seeing your family and friends?
- Does he constantly criticise you and put you down in public and private?
- Does he control your finances or has he put debt into your name
- Does he tell you how to dress, who to see, where to go, what to think?
- Does he pressure or force you to have sex when you don’t want to?
- Is he drinking more but blaming alcohol for the abuse?
- Does he “gaslight” you?
You may have already heard of gaslighting as the term has entered our everyday language in relation to many areas of life. However the most prevalent form of gaslighting is in domestic abuse situations. Because gaslighting affects your judgement, it makes your assessment of whether your relationship may be abusive very difficult.
Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind.
They tell blatant lies.
You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.
They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.
They try to align people against you.
Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being.
They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.
They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behaviour.
They know confusion weakens people.
Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.
They tell you or others that you are crazy.
This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.
They tell you everyone else is a liar.
By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.
Source: Stephanie Sarkis – Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free, Copyright 2017
Are you experiencing “tech abuse”?
Tech or digital abuse is where abusers use technology (mobile phones, social media, email accounts etc) to control a relationship or to continue abuse after a relationship has ended.
- Does your partner/abuser constantly call, text and message you online?
- Does your partner/abuser publish posts about you online which encourage others to harass and abuse you?
- Does your partner/abuser constantly call, message and send “friend requests” to your family and friends?
- Does your partner/abuser harass you, your employer and your clients through business social media pages and work email addresses?
- Has your partner/abuser threatened to share any information about you online such as confidential information, for example screenshots of messages, photos of you, or information that could cause you embarrassment?
- Has your partner/abuser threatened to share or shared intimate images of you?
- Does your partner/abuser seem to know about conversations that you have had without being present?
- Does your partner/abuser give the children the latest tech gadgets during child contact? Does he play Xbox and PlayStation games with them online outside of his agreed contact time?
- Does your partner/abuser have access to your banking and social media accounts, and assure you that it’s normal to have access to your partner’s information?
- Does your partner/abuser know your whereabouts or turn up unexpectedly wherever you go?
- Does your partner/abuser stalk and harass you via fake social media profiles?
- Has your partner/abuser installed any apps such as ‘find my iPhone’ onto your device? Did he assure you that it is for your safety in case you lose your phone?
- There is a rise in the number of women whose children’s IPads, Xboxes and PlayStations have been hacked by the perpetrator to gain full access to their accounts, to trace information such as the child’s location, who they are speaking to and what games they are playing.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be experiencing domestic abuse and specifically tech abuse. (Source: refuge.org.uk)
Staying Safe During Lockdown
- Can you call someone you know & trust and tell them about what is happening or worrying you?
- Can you ask someone you trust to contact you at certain times to make sure you are safe and ok?
- Always call 999 If you feel in danger
- Remember “The Silent Solution”, which means if you are too scared or unable to speak, you can call 999 then press 55 when prompted. This alert the police that you have a genuine emergency.
- Avoid areas where there may be potential weapons ie kitchen or garage
Looking after Yourself During Lockdown
- Try to stick to your usual routines as much as possible
- Keeping up the basic routines of eating regularly, washing, sleeping and exercising will all help you to feel better and “normal”
- Take a break and some exercise outside if you can
- Use the time during lockdown to think about your situation and how the abuse you’ve been experiencing might change because of the lockdown situation. And what will the future look like? What would you want to change, how you might do that and who would help you to make any changes safely?
Leaving Your Home
- If you do decide to or have the opportunity to leave your home, if possible try to contact IWA, the national helpline or police for to get advice & support first
- Have and rehearse an escape plan in case you need to leave in a hurry
- If you can, pack a bag of essentials including documentation (birth certificate, driving licence, passports, bank details etc), medical essentials and some clothes & toiletries.
- Alert friends and family to your plan
- Have an agreed code word with family and friends so you can make them aware you’re in danger
- Talk to your children about how to make themselves safe if your partner becomes abusive or violent and tell them not to intervene.
- Teach your children how to call 999 with their name, address, phone number and nature of emergency if needed
- Keep important numbers such as Inverness Women’s Aid 01463 220719 and the national Domestic Abuse helpline 0800 027 1234 with you
Scottish Women’s Aid www.womensaid.scot
Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forces Marriage Helpline www.sdafmh.org.uk/covid-19/
Refuge (England) www.refuge.org.uk/our-work/forms-of-violence-and-abuse/
Women’s Aid (England) www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/
Police Scotland www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/advice-for-victims-of-crime/domestic-abuse/
Lockdown & Domestic Abuse www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52081280