No-one wants to admit to being abused – not to themselves and not to others. But when a relationship turns sour, there comes a point when enough is enough. Unfortunately, domestic violence is the cause of many family relationship breakdowns, often with hair-raising consequences if left unaddressed.
What’s more, and unbeknown to many, there are 5 recognized types of domestic violence – it can be physical or sexual, emotionally or psychological, even financial – and that’s before even considering online abuse, forced marriages or female genital mutilation! So here goes:
Probably the most recognizable form of domestic violence, physical abuse involves the use of force to cause injury. Hitting, punching, kicking… choking, stabbing, shooting… even forcing you to use drugs – it’s all domestic violence. Injuries don’t need to be major – if he slaps you around, he’s abusing you.
A common form of domestic violence, sexual abuse is just not limited to sexual assault and rape, it also covers sexual harassment such as unwelcome touching or other demeaning behaviors. It also includes reproductive coercion, such as being prevented from using contraception or forced to have an abortion.
If your self-worth is persistently under attack through insults, criticism or humiliation, your relationship is not only unhealthy, it’s emotionally abusive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse alone may not be enough to bring legal action, unless it is in evidence together with other forms of abuse.
A generic term for all intimidating and menacing behavior that is both significant and persistent, psychological abuse includes having to obtain permission to speak to other people or to leave the house and being threatened with violence or emotionally blackmailed for going against the abuser’s wishes. Like emotional abuse, psychological abuse on its own may not be sufficient to bring a claim.
Perhaps the least obvious type of domestic violence is financial abuse. Often, the abusive partner controls the family finances to such an extent that the other partner is forbidden from getting an education or a job and may even be totally dependent on the abuser for basic needs such as food and clothing.
Being the victim of domestic violence can create desperate feelings of helplessness, self-doubt, and depression, which is why it’s so important to recognize signs and abuse and to get help as soon as possible. Many victims try to rationalize their experience and to justify their abuser’s actions in some way, either taking responsibility for the abusive action themselves or hoping that the situation will improve its own accord in due course.
Unfortunately, domestic violence situations often escalate. What may start as an isolated incident of intimidation, rough sex or a raised hand can turn into rape, battery, and even murder? If you have children, it doesn’t even bear thinking about how they might be traumatized by abusive behavior in the family.
Whether you’re in a long-term relationship, cohabiting with your partner and children or are married, domestic violence is a deal breaker. It’s never an easy decision to end a relationship, but you really need to think about protecting yourself and other victims in the family and get away.
Fortunately, help is available from many sources, including
- Talking to your doctor, health visitor or midwife
- Calling the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, a free 24-hour resource run by Women’s Aid and Refuge
- Reading The Survivor’s Handbook free here for a wide range of useful information including finding help, your legal rights, help for children, and health issues
- For real emergency situations, don’t hesitate to call 999
You should also find a friendly, supportive and experienced family solicitor who is sensitive to your particular situation and can talk you through all the options available to you and your family to enable you to make a fresh start.
Dakota Murphey, a Marketing graduate and single mother of two, she is passionate about raising awareness to domestic relationship issues. Working alongside independent law firm, George Ide, who were consulted for some of the information in this article.