Domestic abuse is a crime that occurs across all ages, both sexes and in same sex and heterosexual couples. It accounted for 52% of all reported crimes to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), in the first quarter of the 2020 lockdown. Domestic abuse does not have to be physical. It covers many other often more subtle areas, and in some cases, victims are not aware that it is happening or if they are, that it constitutes domestic abuse. If you are in a relationship or marriage and do not feel entirely happy with the behaviour of your partner, do you know what constitutes domestic abuse and can you spot the signs?
So, what constitutes domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is the systematic behaviour by one partner or person to control the other. Children and adults can be victims of domestic abuse. We list below the five categories of domestic abuse with examples of each:
- Physical. Physical abuse covers the more obvious behaviours that cause harm or pain such as kicking, punching, slapping or pulling your hair, but it can also include behaviours such as pinching and shoving which may seem less obvious and difficult to determine if they constitute physical abuse. If someone is using physical restraints on another such as locking up or regularly restraining, then this is also a form of physical abuse.
Other ways in which you may be being physically abused is if you are being forced to take drugs or alcohol, are being denied medicines or are being trapped in your home against your will and permitted from leaving.
Emotional. Emotional abuse includes behaviours whereby the other person is controlling you, the way you feel and your sense of self-worth. For example, you may find someone constantly checking your emails or texts, wanting to know your every move, or trying to distance you from your family and friends.
Constant ‘put downs’ or criticism can also be a form of emotional abuse, designed to make you feel not worthy and ultimately more reliant on the other person. Victims of emotional abuse will often say they didn’t ‘feel good enough’ and that their partner told them they would not find anyone better.
Psychological. Psychological abuse is very similar to emotional abuse. If someone is constantly calling you names, embarrassing you in public, referring to your race, gender, sex etc, and generally trying to manipulate the way you think. If there are children involved, then they may often be used against the victim as a way of controlling so for example, trying to turn the children against them or using the children as a threat. The victim of psychological abuse may take some time to realise he or she is being abused. This is because often the person committing the abuse can come across at other times as loving, caring and charming, making the victim feel secure. When the abusive behaviour then takes place, it can be confusing and the victim can question whether they are ‘imagining things’. Many victims report having been told ‘they are mentally unstable’ or are ‘seeing a different version of events’.
Financial. If someone is trying to control your finances, limit your access to bank accounts, or is demanding to know what you are spending, then these are all forms of financial abuse. Many victims report only being given a limited amount of money but also being denied the freedom to work and earn their own money. Without access to funds, a victim becomes isolated and loses their freedom.
- Sexual. Sexual abuse can take many forms. It is not simply one person forcing the other to have sex but can also include forcing someone to dress in a sexual way, holding you down during sex, making you feel afraid if you say no, and involving others to have sex with you against your will. Sexual abuse may also be non-penetrative – it is still sexual abuse if under age or against your will.
If you believe you may be the victim of domestic abuse then seek advice from a charity or another organisation such as Citizens Advice.
You may also want to contact a solicitor to find out more information and advice on taking legal action and stopping an abusive partner or other person from harming or threatening you.