If I were to mention the words ‘domestic abuse’, the first thing that would likely come to mind for you would be violence. Whilst arguably all violence within a relationship may constitute domestic abuse, not all domestically abusive relationships contain violence. Actually, some people are not even aware they are in an abusive relationship immediately, whilst others may never become aware for the duration of the relationship.
Recently I was speaking with somebody about relationships and it wasn’t until we started to explore a previous relationship that they realised that it had been domestically abusive. One of the reasons abusive behaviour can sometimes go undetected is because it can be done very subtly. Much of this behaviour is about control, and this can be done in many ways.
One of the most common aspects of domestic abuse is isolation. When we talk about isolation, we effectively mean isolating an individual from family and friends. This isn’t always done overtly, which is why it is not always apparent. There are several reasons why perpetrators try to isolate a partner. The first involves creating a dependency, whereby the victim is made to feel completely reliant on their partner, which allows the partner to exercise control. Sometimes a partner may be extremely jealous and possessive, and in these instances you may see them try to remove their partner from their social setting, as an attempt to mitigate against their own insecurities. On other occasions it can be about punishment. Punishment does not always manifest itself physically, and it is not uncommon to see somebody cut off from their friends and family as an act of retribution.
Abuse can also be psychological, and there is an argument this can have a more detrimental effect than a physically abusive relationship. Psychological abuse again is a form of control, and is designed to chip away at a person’s character, their confidence, their self-esteem, to reduce them to a state where they can feel grateful to have somebody who is willing to be in a relationship with them. This again creates that reliance and the belief that others may not find them desirable, which in turn can make getting out of the relationship difficult primarily because they feel there is no alternative for them.
Domestic abuse is such a vast topic that it is impossible to do it justice in a column, however it would be remiss of me not to address the stereotype that domestic abuse is synonymous with male perpetrators and female victims. Male victims of domestic abuse are rising, and currently the gap between male and female in terms of the prevalence of domestic abuse is at its lowest rate since 2005. Figures in their entirety may not be an accurate representation of the enormity of the problem however, as we can only analyse what is actually reported.
If you feel like you are in an abusive relationship, there is advice and support available. Keep in mind you don’t need to be at risk of physical violence to be in an abusive relationship. Sometimes the emotional scars take longer to heal.
https://www.mankind.org.uk (working specifically with male victims)
https://www.womensaid.org.uk (working specifically with female abuse victims)