Warning signs of domestic violence
Black eyes, bruised faces, broken bones. That's what comes to mind for most people when they think about domestic violence (domestic abuse).
But physical assault, though it is certainly part of domestic violence, isn't the whole story.
If you're worrying about whether what you're experiencing is domestic violence, here are some of the signs you need to be aware of.
How do you feel inside?
Do you feel:
- Inadequate, as though you really can't do anything right for him?
- That maybe you deserve to be badly treated?
- Emotionally helpless?
- Fearful of broaching some topics of conversation because you fear it might anger your partner?
- Frightened of your partner some or even most of the time?
- Worried about how to please your partner and keep him happy?
What is domestic violence?
Domestic abuse during pregnancy
Domestic violence and the law
Domestic violence support
How does your partner behave?
- Hurt you or try to hurt you?
- Threaten to hurt you?
- Force you to have sex?
- Say he'll take your children away from you?
- Shout at you, yell at you, criticise you and put you down?
- Smash things up in the house, and behave violently around the place?
- Humiliate and belittle you and put down your achievements?
- Say you're to blame for his abusive behaviour?
- Act in an over-controlling way – does he try to control where you go and who you see, and does he constantly check up on you?
- Limit your access to money?
But is it really abuse?
If it's affecting you in the ways described above, it's domestic abuse. Even if it doesn't fit the definition of domestic violence you might have read about it books or seen on TV, it's still abuse.
Some women think that because they have only experienced abuse once or twice, it's not bad enough to seek help. That's not the case: it's still abuse, and all the evidence suggests that abusers go on to abuse again.
As this Mumsnetter spells out: "Don't be fooled into thinking the abuse isn't 'bad enough to leave'. If you are treated in any way less than cherished, loved and respected, it is bad enough to leave."
The abuse cycle
Domestic violence tends to follow what's called 'the abuse cycle'. Here's what happens:
- Abuse: your partner behaves in an abusive manner, because he needs to exert power.
- Guilt: he feels guilty, but he's more worried about being caught than at the pain he's inflicted on you.
- Excuses: he comes up with lots of explanations for what he's done, or he blames you for forcing him into the abusive behaviour.
- 'Normal' behaviour: your partner does everything he can to keep the status quo. He pretends nothing has happened, or he gives you the impression that everything has changed and it is now OK.
- Planning next time: he begins to plan ways he wants to control, or abuse, you again.
- More abuse: your partner behaves in an abusive manner because he again needs to exert power.