- What is domestic abuse (or domestic violence)?
A pattern of control and abuse, which may or may not be physical, from a family member, partner, or close other.
- How common is domestic abuse?
Approximately one in every four women will experience domestic abuse in one form or another at some point in their lives. More than two women every week on average are killed in the UK by their partner/abuser (Council of Europe, 2002)
- Who are the victims?
The overwhelming majority of victims are women and children.
"At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Nearly three quarters of children on the 'at risk' register live
in households where domestic violence occurs" (Dept. of Health, 2002)
- Who are the abusers (perpetrators)?
The vast majority of perpetrators of domestic abuse are men.
- Why does it happen?
Perpetrators use bullying techniques and hurt victims in order to gain power and control. It is believed that this behaviour is underpinned by entitlement and ownership of their victims, and a negative attitude towards women. It is also suggested that men who perpetrate abuse often hold racist, homophobic, and other discriminatory attitudes as a result of their sense of male privilege. Men choose to behave this way - abusemay be worsened by alcohol or substance misuse but the victim of their violence does not usually change when under the influence.
Domestic abuse is often viewed as social issue and a consequence of the inequalities that exist between men and women in every culture.Further Reading
- Why doesn’t she leave?
Women may not leave for a number of reasons. It is very likely that she is frightened of the abuser, and of the consequences of leaving. The cycle of abuse and control, which she has been living in, for possibly a long time, is hard to break away from. When feeling low and isolated it is hard to know where to turn for safety, understanding, help and advice. She may be reluctant to leave her home and belongings, or may simply hope the abuse will stop. She may be worried about money and security and might have concerns over debt and housing due to financial abuse. Women often worry about social services involvement (as perpetrators use threats of ‘having the children taken off them’ if she leaves).
Women who are subject to immigration control are usually concerned about having their rights of residence revoked (and being deported) as well as having no access to benefits (recourse to public funds).
We understand how any of these concerns can make you feel, but it is important to know that you have options and that help is available.
- What are the effects?
Victims (usually women) are made to feel worthless, under-confident and frightened. This causes anxiety and depression, which is often alleviated when away from the abuse permanently.
“Between 50% and 60% of women mental health service users have experienced domestic violence, and up to 20% will be experiencing current abuse” (Herman, 2001)"
Most refuges and domestic abuse services, such as ourselves, offer a support group as well as one-to-one support which focuses on long-term emotional well-being.
Victims may also have to deal with the physical impact of domestic abuse as women often are severely injured by perpetrators. In addition to the aforementioned support services, there are organisations which help victims to deal with the impact of physical and sexual harm. See links – include IDVAS
- What is the impact on children?
When domestic abuse is occurring in their family home, children are affected. Children who witness the abuse are being emotionally abused, but many children are also directly abused and hurt physically (this may include sexual abuse). Many children feel protective for the non-abusive parent and attempt to intervene, which is very dangerous and frequently leads to injury.
Some children gravitate towards the abusive parent for what they perceive to be protection and security, even if that parent if directly abusive toward that child. This can be upsetting and confusing for the non-abusive parent and can cause problems in parenting that child effectively once no longer in the abusive relationship. All children respond to an experience of abuse (direct or indirect) in different ways, but witnessing domestic abuse always has a short-term and long-term impact. They are often left feeling sad or anxious, which may present in their behaviour, such as aggression, withdrawal, bed-wetting. In the long-term, low self worth and anxiety may lead to self-harm or some other self-destructive behaviour. School may become difficult for them, or may present a ‘safe-haven’ in which they thrive. Generally, any concerns about a child’s behaviour, or change in mood should be reported or acted upon; it is the view of social services, other children’s services and domestic abuse services that no child should be made to live a house where any abuse exists.
Further reading: Children in the legal system
- Where can victims/children get help?
WVWA and other domestic abuse services can help in a number of ways, depending on circumstances. You don’t have to live in a refuge to get help or advice. Anyone is welcome to give us a call or arrange an outreach appointment (for face to face advice) and we will try our best to help. In an emergency, you should always dial 999.
See Children for other help available
Also see ‘Living in a Refuge’
- Where can perpetrators get help?
WVWA operate a Perpetrator’s programme. More information.
Abuse exists within every group in society, irrespective of age, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, social class and lifestyle. Men also experience abuse, but in much smaller numbers.