Every week two women in England or Wales, are murdered by their partner or by their ex.
That is a shocking statistic and I believe more should be done about this frightening issue. 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse at one point in their life, and this can have devastating effects. An additional three women will commit suicide every week, as a way to escape domestic abuse and you are twice as likely to suffer from depression if you are being abused. To try to end this suffering, we need to become educated and recognise the signs to allow people to get help before it’s too late.
Physical violence is much easier to recognise but verbal abuse can have the same catastrophic effects, and could even lead into violence. You do not have to necessarily be in a relationship with the person to experience abuse; abuse can occur in any sort of relationship. Here are some signs of abuse:
- Your partner controls or bullies you – tells you how to dress, criticises you, yells at you, makes you feel humiliated, blames you for everything
- Your partner controls your money – you have an “allowance”, you have to ask permission to purchase things, requires receipts
- Your partner isolates you – you have to ask permission to go out, requires updates and proof of where you are, makes seeing others difficult
- Your partner physically abuses you – hits you, locks you in/out of your house, stops you from accessing medical care
- Your partner sexually abuses you – refuses to wear a condom, pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to
If you are being abused
The best thing to do is to get everything in order and leave; phone the hotlines, prepare yourself and make a plan. However, if you are in an abusive relationship it may not seem possible to leave, and it might take you some time to gather the courage to get out of the relationship. In the meantime, it is crucial to protect yourself as you could be in a very dangerous position.
Always phone 999 if your partner becomes violent
You should prepare for an emergency. Pack a bag containing clothes, medication, an extra set of car keys, money and anything else that you think is important and store it at a friend’s house or in a safe place. Calling the police can seem out of the question in a heated situation, so have a code word or a signal with the people close to you to let them know if you need help. Have a think about what you would do in the situation that you had to leave immediately – where would you go and how would you get there.
If you think someone you know is being abused
It may frustrating and distressing to you to see someone you care about living in such a dangerous situation, but you must not get angry with them – remember who the victim is. Imagine one day someone told you that you have to uproot your whole life and then add in the anxiety of how an abuser would react to that, it is certainly not an easy situation – so be patient. The best thing to do is to support this person; let them know you are there for them and that you don’t judge them. Phone the National Domestic Abuse Hotline as it also provides advice and support for relatives, friends and anyone concerned. I recommend that you carefully broach this subject with the person you believe to being abused, as it may just save their life. If they deny any abuse, then you can tell them what is worrying you and reinforce to them that you will keep this confidential.
If anyone reading is a victim of abuse, I am deeply sorry and this is not your fault. Try and get help – phone the hotlines, confide in friends and build up the courage to leave – you are worth so much more than this. And if you are reading and recognise that some of the behaviour listed applies to how you act, then please get help and immediately cease all abusive actions. Abuse has devastating effects on lives, not only on mental health, but also for those who suffer physically and those who die due to it.