KNOW THE SIGNS: Abuse can come in many forms and people often don’t recognise they’re a victim
As cuts to domestic abuse services worsen, yearly statics show the shocking reality of a violent epidemic in the UK.
In the past year 1.9 million people in England and Wales – 1.2 million women and 713,000 men – experienced domestic abuse, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Shockingly two women are killed every week in England by a partner or ex-partner. And nine in 10 women killed in 2016 in England were murdered by someone they knew.
But despite the horrific reality, severe cuts have been made to the services that support domestic abuse victims since 2010.
NOT ALONE: 1.2 million women and 713,000 men experienced domestic abuse int eh last year
Domestic abuse can come in many forms, which can make it hard to define. Women and men can experience varying levels of physical or emotional abuse in a relationship.
Abuse often starts in the form of controlling behaviour. And Define the Line, a new research study released by Avon and domestic violence charity Refuge, found that nearly 56% of young adults have experienced coercive control from a partner.
“Domestic violence is an abuse of power”
Sandra Horley CEO, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge
A third (32%) said that how a controlling partner had treated them prevented them living their life and worryingly 84% of women and 65% of men blame themselves for the abuse.
“Domestic violence is an abuse of power – it is the repeated, habitual use of violence and intimidation to control another person,” said Sandra Horley CEO, chief executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge.
“We cannot blame domestic violence on Christmas, alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress, money worries or ill health. These are just excuses for an abuser’s behaviour.”
What is domestic violence?
“Domestic violence is not about a row going wrong or someone losing control,” Sandra added.
“Domestic violence is all about exerting control. Domestic violence is systematic, patterned behaviour designed to control someone. It is an abuse of power.”
There are many ways that an abuser can try to control their partner:
Physical abuse: This includes, but is not limited to, slapping, hitting, pushing, restraining and kicking.
Emotional abuse: Name-calling, constant criticism, threats and isolating them from friends and family are all techniques of control.
Financial abuse: Examples of this may be taking their money, stopping them from working, giving a tight allowance and monitoring spending.
Sexual abuse: An abuser might force the person to have sex or perform degrading acts to assert control.
Here are some early warning signs which could signal you are in a unhealthy or abusive relationship:
1. You’re becoming a lot more critical of yourself — thinking you are stupid or fat or very lucky to have a partner.
2. You give up on your own opinions and think your partner is right about everything.
3. You’re feeling more stressed or worried all the time; you feel nauseous or have bad butterflies. Sometimes stress can also stop us eating and sleeping properly, or cause us to have headaches.
4. You have that “dreaded” feeling more often.
5. You’re scared of how your partner will react to a situation.
ABUSE: Domestic abuse isn’t always physical – sometimes it’s a lot harder to spot
6. You avoid saying something because you don’t want to upset your partner.
7. You feel scared when your partner is angry because you can’t predict their behaviour.
8. You’re feeling a pressure to change who you are or move the relationship further than you want to.
9. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
10. You’re staying in more and seeing less of family and friends to avoid arguments with your partner.
Many men and women who are abused, either physically or emotionally, often believe it is their fault.
A spokesperson from Refuge stressed: “Abuse is a crime and it is never your fault. You don’t have to deal with this alone.”
Sandra added: “Some police forces see increases in reports of domestic violence incidents at Christmas.
“This may be because many police forces run high profile awareness campaigns around Christmas time.
“But the truth is that domestic violence takes place all year round. It affects one woman in four at some point in her life. And it kills two women every week.
“The police should be encouraging women to reach out for support every day of the year, not just at Christmas.”
If you’re still not sure if you’re experiencing abuse you can take this survey on womensaid.org.uk, which will ask you questions about your relationship.
If you are in an abusive relationship or you’re worried about someone else you can call Refuge’s freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or go to their website at Refuge.org.uk.
One domestic abuse survivor said: “I didn’t know I was experiencing domestic abuse for a long time.
“I remember feeling so relieved the very first time I rang the helpline that someone understood exactly what I was going through.”