How to Spot Domestic Abuse
I decided to write more about the signs of domestic abuse. First though, a note about semantics. To make things easier to follow, I’ve used the concept of a heterosexual couple where the male is the abuser, but it is important to remember that abusers can often be female, and same-sex couples are not immune to this either. It’s just easier to write and to follow if I stick to the male/female scenario.
Quite often a woman can be in an abusive relationship and not necessarily realise it. She may think her partner is a bit moody sometimes, but “that’s just men,” or he may have completely convinced her that every problem in their relationship is her fault, and she’s the one with the problems. Therefore a list like this can prove useful in helping a woman to understand that what she has been experiencing is abuse, even if there has been no physical violence. Obviously, at some point in a relationship you will hear your partner say these things, but it’s when they’re being said on a daily basis, or with a menacing tone, that there’s a problem.
Phrases you might hear in an abusive relationship:
“You’re asking for trouble”
“You’re obviously shagging someone else”
“I work my arse off to put food on the table and all you do is sit on your fat arse all day and eat my food with those slag friends of yours.”
“You’re really winding me up today”
“You know I hate that”
“You know I’m suffering from stress at the moment, you’re doing this deliberately.”
“You know I need sex regularly, I have a big libido.”
“What sort of a wife/girlfriend are you!”
“How dare you make me feel like this! Who do you think you are?”
Unbelievable as it may seem, many women will believe violence against them may have been their own fault – or perhaps the blame was 50/50 and therefore she has no right to claim abuse. An abuser who is experienced can make his victim believe he has done nothing wrong. Similarly, he can make friends, family, even the police, believe that no abuse has occurred.
Excuses an abuser will use for violence:
“I had to restrain her; she was hysterical. I thought she was going to hurt herself/me/the children.”
“She fell and hurt herself.”
“She just bruises easily.”
“I was defending myself; I am the victim here.”
“Where did those bruises come from? Who did that to her? It certainly wasn’t me!”
“I was drunk and I don’t remember a thing. I always have a bad reaction when I drink spirits.”
“I suffer from this medical condition which makes me lash out in my sleep. I don’t know I’m doing it.”
“She made me so angry! She nagged at me until I just lost it.”
“She is mentally ill and it is so difficult to live with her. I just lashed out from sheer frustration.”
“She is such a bad mother; the children are suffering because of her; I just lost my temper because of it.”
“She is the violent one; I am the victim. I need some help. She attacked me and smashed the house up.”
“She’s a slag. She made me do it because she was having an affair.”
“I only did it because I love her. “
“She deserved it; she had it coming.”
“This situation is so difficult for me, I’m suffering with anxiety.”
“I had a terrible childhood/I suffer from Gulf War Syndrome/I am insecure/I have low self esteem/my mother abandoned me/my ex-wife was such a bitch and slag that I find it impossible to trust other women.”
“I am autistic/I suffer from ADHD/I have Tourette’s/I have a personality disorder/I have learning difficulties.”
“I have been working too hard/I’m unemployed”
Abusers will often project their own behaviours/thoughts onto their partners. For example, he may start an argument with you, and later on refer to the massive row that you deliberately started. Or he will tell you you’re unreasonable, unsociable, you’re passive aggressive, you need to get help for your anger issues, and so on – and you’ll be thinking, hang on, I was about to say that about you! Is it also quite common that an abuser will fire insults, questions and accusations at you non-stop for as long as it takes you to snap and lash out in frustration, and then use this as more evidence that you are unstable and abusive. They are often very skilled at this, and can make you believe you are indeed the one in the wrong; you have been a complete nightmare to live with, and he is so patient and kind to still be with you. What a saint, to put up with you and your difficult ways. Every now and then you may think, wait, I’m sure it’s not unreasonable to ask you to do this, or perhaps you’re the one that wanted to go out and he said it would be better for you both to stay in. Or perhaps when you look up the definition of passive aggression it’s like reading a description of the abuser in your life. But by that point he has put that seed of doubt into your head, and you’re not sure if you’re right or not; not sure if you’re going mad. The lines will blur to the point you are not sure what is going on. I have heard stories of abusers tampering with their victim’s medication, so that they are either taking too much or not enough, and as a result do not know what is going on. They will then say, See? Look at the state of her; she’s driving me round the bend…
For those readers resident in Wiltshire, Greater Manchester, Gwent or Nottinghamshire, these police forces are piloting a scheme known as Clare’s Law, where you can call the police and find out whether a new partner has a history of domestic abuse. To do this, you call the police on 101 and put in a formal request for the information. Although anyone can make a request for information, it is usually only given out to the person’s current partner. If you are concerned about a friend’s new partner, you can make the request and I believe the information would be sent directly to them. Hopefully this scheme will be rolled out nationwide before too long. However, it is important to remember that most perpetrators of domestic abuse have never had a formal conviction; often their victims feel lucky enough just to have got away from them, and don’t want to make a formal complaint about them. Also, as mentioned above, even if the police are called, they can be very persuasive and convincing about their behaviour.
To finish, here is a link to the National Domestic Violence Helpline. There are instructions on the website as to how to hide the fact you’ve visited it. Their 24 hour helpline number is 0808 2000 247.
First published at SingleMotherAhoy on September 23rd, 2012