The Truth About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence. Unsurprisingly it's an emotive subject. It makes you think of soap operas, or else that old but effective advert they show every Christmas. While everybody has a strong opinion on the matter, it's obvious that many (if not most) of the debaters have never experienced it themselves. "I couldn't let somebody treat me like that," "Why does she stay with him?" "I'd just walk out and never come back..." Let's look at the statistics, shall we? 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime- many on a regular basis. It's estimated that 2 women a week are killed by a domestic partner. Almost two in every five victims are male, contradicting the popular myth it's primarily a female issue. This points to the unpalatable truth: that it happens far more frequently than we'd like to admit...

What is domestic violence?

Although there are numerous terms to describe the phenomenon- including spousal abuse, family violence and intimate partner violence- domestic violence is the one most commonly used in the media. Despite portrayals overwhelmingly showing a man as the abuser, some abusers are female, and it sometimes occurs within same sex relationships (a survey taken in 2000 showed that domestic abuse had been experienced by 22% of lesbian/bisexual women and 29% of gay/bisexual men). The word 'violence' is something of a misnomer, instantly causing people to assume physical abuse. While physical abuse is possibly the most documented form- where the abuser beats, slaps, chokes and other acts designed to injure and humiliate- domestic violence takes various shapes.

Emotional abuse- where the abusive partner undermines the victim both publicly and privately, controls their life and cuts them off from family and friends- is arguably the most prevalent. Since it doesn't leave marks, it's harder to detect; the abuser often convinces the victim that they're going mad or no one would ever believe them. Since women are usually physically weaker than men, it's the form of domestic violence most practised by abusive women. Although these are the two main strands, it can and does take other forms: sexual (where the victim is forced into sexual activity against their will), verbal (including threats, insults, ridicule and false accusations) and economic (where the dominant partner forces the other to depend on them financially). It's common, if not probable, to find the different forms of abuse going hand in

How do you know if your partner is abusive?

The victim of domestic violence is naturally extremely conflicted. In many instances they still love their partner- they might claim they're sick, that they did something to provoke them, or they deserve the treatment meted out to them. Abusers may argue that they couldn't help it and "something came over" them. This is patently false: domestic abusers often behave like loving, attentive partners and parents to the outside world, as part of their camouflage. This makes it clear the violence is something they can switch on and off when it suits them. Examine your feelings honestly. Are you frightened of your partner? Do you feel you have to tread carefully around them, scared of how they'll react? Do you feel helpless and desperate? If you answer "yes" to all these questions, you're in an abusive relationship. Being forced to do anything against your will is wrong- it's still sexual abuse if committed by your partner.

What should you do?

Many victims believe that they can change their partner- that "love will out." Though it's a lovely idea, it's highly unrealistic; once that boundary has been crossed, it's likely to happen again and again. Forget loyalty: your partner lost any right to expect that when they started to abuse you. This attitude is even more crucial if you have children; who's to say your partner won't eventually start hurting them? How can you raise a child in such an unhealthy, volatile environment? Seek help. Tell trusted friends and family about your situation. Arrange it so you can leave at a moment's notice without arousing your partner's suspicion. Once you've taken this step, don't weaken- they're in the wrong, not you. See about having a non molestation order placed against your partner; that way they will not be able to harass you or any other member of your family, and they will face criminal charges if they attempt to do so.

Changing attitudes

Although we've come a long way in our attitudes towards domestic violence- rape within marriage wasn't criminalised in the UK till 1991- there's still plenty of room for change. In the BBC3 documentary I Never Said Yes, dealing with the appalling rates for rape convictions, it was revealed that attitudes towards consent are terrifyingly lax, with men continuing even if the woman was crying and showing clear signs she didn't want to have sex. Male victims of domestic abuse are still woefully underrepresented; the first safe house specifically for battered men didn't open till 2003.

Same sex partners suffer on two fronts: not only are they scared to seek help, they're also afraid to identify themselves as gay or lesbian. It doesn't help that blatantly unhealthy relationships are eroticized by series such as Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, where dominant men control gauche, timid women. Remember: domestic abuse is never the victim's fault. Should you or anybody you love end up in this situation, it's vital you recognise it for what it is and get away- fast

New Link List Women's Aid : The number one resource for women and children experiencing domestic violence End the Fear : If you're in a same sex relationship and the victim of domestic abuse, there's no need to suffer in silence. Process Serve UK : A reliable, professional process serving company. Specialise in non molestation orders.

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