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Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is actual or threatened physical, emotional or mental abuse of one partner towards another in a relationship, usually of the man towards the woman, although it is not solely confined to heterosexual relationships and it is occasionally also perpetrated by women towards male partners. At the root of the abuse is the perpetrator's desire to have power and control over their partner. It's much more common than many people think, but it often goes unnoticed as it tends to happen in the privacy of the home.

Common features of domestic violence include being beaten, not being allowed to leave the home, being verbally insulted and put down, being controlled in every aspect of life, being denied access to food or money, being threatened or blackmailed either physically or emotionally, being raped, and living in fear of doing or saying something that will trigger the abuse.

People who've never been trapped in a violent relationship often find it difficult to understand how it happens. Why doesn't the abused partner just leave? It's really not as simple as that. For a start, the violence doesn't always stop after the relationship has ended. Abusive partners often find out where their partner has gone and continue the violence. Many women are also financially dependent on their partners or would be unable to juggle a job and childcare alone. Sometimes a feeling of guilt about splitting up the family and upsetting the children can stop a woman from leaving, as can feelings of shame for some women who are brought up to believe for cultural reasons that a marriage or relationship is for life. Furthermore, the perpetrators have a tremendous hold over their partners after years of grinding down their confidence and self-esteem to the point that they don't feel that they would be able to leave, that they don't deserve any better, or even that the abuse is their own fault. The ability to leave also depends on the woman's social situation. Sometimes their partner has cut them off so much from their family and friends that they have noone to turn to or they may feel too frightened, ashamed or embarrassed to admit the abuse.

If you are in an abusive relationship, the best thing that you can do is to leave as soon as you can. You don't deserve to be abused and it certainly is not your fault. Abusive partners rarely change their ways (even though they may often promise to do so) and you won't be able to make your partner change either (which many women believe). It doesn't matter how you behave or what you say, if he's abusive you'll always find yourself at the brunt of his violent temperament. Don't feel ashamed or isolated such behaviour is not acceptable and there are lots of ways in which you can get support to help you leave your partner and find safety.

If you have a family member or friend in whom you can confide and who would be able to take you in, get in touch with them. However, bear in mind that if your partner knows where they live, they may be able to track you down.

Alternatively, there are many domestic abuse charities who can provide a listening ear and someone to talk over your problems with, and some have refuges where women can escape to in safety and secrecy. Get in touch with Women's Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk) or Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk).

You have a right to local authority housing if you need to leave your partner as a result of domestic violence. All local authorities have a stock of emergency accommodation as well as permanent housing.

If you want to stay in your own home and have your partner leave (which will only be appropriate in some circumstances, depending on the likelihood of him returning to abuse you, and whether you have friends or family nearby who can protect you), there are various ways in which you can attempt to evict him. If you are unmarried and the home is in your name alone, he will have no rights to the property and you can tell him to leave or change the locks when he is out if he refuses to leave. If you are married, even if the home is not in your name, you have the right to stay in it. To have your abusive partner evicted you will have to apply for an occupation order through the courts. If your property is council-rented, you can apply to have an abusive partner evicted.

Don't forget that the police can help too and have special units trained to deal with victims of domestic violence. In an emergency, call 999, otherwise phone or visit your local police station. The police have measures that they can take to protect you from your partner and he may face criminal prosecution. There are also ways in which the civil courts can protect you, by means of court injunctions (such as occupation orders and non-molestation orders) to exclude your partner from your house and try to prevent them from harming you or your children.

Remember that you are not alone in suffering from domestic violence and you are in no way to blame. Noone deserves to be abused. With help from various sources, you can end your abusive relationship. Most women who escape a violent partner go on to experience positive, loving relationships in the future with men who respect and care for them.


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