Written by: Cally Worden
Domestic Abuse occurs when one person in a marriage or otherwise intimate relationship seeks to dominate and control the other person. Where the abuse involves violence, it is known as Domestic Violence. Abusers use fear, shame, guilt, manipulation and intimidation to exert control over their partners, wearing down their defences and often threatening to hurt them or those they love.
While physical violence is the obvious face of domestic abuse, many perpetrators never hit, preferring instead to control their partners through a never-ending round of emotional and psychological abuse that leaves them feeling mentally beaten.
Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse
No one can ever really know what goes on behind the closed doors of another’s home. But those suffering emotional or physical domestic abuse cannot always hide the signs. Victims may appear fearful and anxious to please their partner, going along with everything they say, even when they don’t really agree. They may talk of their partner’s jealousy and possessiveness, and receive frequent and harassing calls or texts from them. Victims often also feel obliged to check-in with their partners and report back on what they are doing, where they are, and who they are with. These are all signs of the emotional control of a manipulating domestic abuser.
Physical Signs of Domestic Abuse
Physical violence can leave scars that are more visible, so be vigilant for any friend, family member or co-worker who:
- Seems to injure themselves frequently, and claims they are caused by accidents
- Regularly misses work, school, social occasions, or any other public event or activity without giving any explanation
- Wears clothing designed to cover bruises, even when it may be inappropriate for the weather – long sleeves in summer, sunglasses when indoors, and so on
Perpetrators of domestic abuse maintain a consistent campaign of abuse that wears down the resistance of their victims over time. They often seek to isolate their partner from their support network of friends and family, perhaps by creating arguments or difficulties that makes seeing them tricky, or by insisting on moving away from the area where they live. Abusers maintain this control by not making it easy for their partners to go out in public without them, and by creating a situation where the victim has little or no access to money or transport.
Subject to these subtle but powerful controls, the victim of domestic abuse often lacks self-esteem, even if they were once a confident person. Their personality may become withdrawn, and suffer from depression and anxiety. Such conditions suit the abuser well, as they make is less likely that their victim will ever challenge their despicable behaviour.
How You Can Help
If you suspect someone you know is suffering domestic abuse then don’t ignore it. It is such sensitive subject that many people prefer to quietly ignore warning signs for fear they are wrong, and may upset the individual concerned. Yet your actions and gentle intervention could just help save your friend from continued abuse, and give them the support they may need to escape their situation.
And if you are wrong, both they and you will know you only acted because you care. Often, just letting a victim know you suspect something and are there to listen and help is enough to provide the strength and courage they need to make a change to their life. The worst that can happen is that you are wrong, or they pretend you are wrong and reject your help. Either way you are acting only as a good friend would – in their best interests. And one day they will thank you for it.