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Domestic violence

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Refuge

Domestic violence is one of those things that you may well think would never happen to you, but it can happen to anyone regardless of class, income, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. And it happens to a surprising number of people. Statistics from the charity Refuge show that one in four women is abused at some point during her lifetime and, although women are the majority of victims, men suffer too. So what exactly is domestic violence, and could you be at risk?

Refuge defines domestic violence as ‘the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner’ through ‘physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual’ abuse. And, they say, fear of such treatment can be as powerful as the abuse itself – ‘if you are forced to alter your behaviour because you are frightened of your partner’s reaction, you are being abused’.

Few people would enter into a relationship if they thought any of that was going to happen to them, so where does it come from? All kinds of things are recognised as potential triggers of domestic violence including emotional stresses such as bereavement, money worries, and even – alarmingly – pregnancy.

Don’t be afraid-please talk

Have you ever thought ‘what would I do if…’? From the outside, it might seem obvious that if someone is abusing you, you need to get out and get help. But many people find it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to call time on their home life of emotional abuse and physical beatings. So why is it so hard for people to break free from an abusive relationship? Often it’s fear – if your partner has threatened your life, or said that they’ll harm your children, trying to leave must seem a huge risk to take – and indeed the time of planning and making an exit from the abusive relationship is often the most dangerous.

Fear of the unknown may also play a part. How will you get free? And once you have, what will your life be like, where will you live, how will you support your children? And will the abusive partner still be able to find you anyway?

Am i a selfish person?

For some people, who are abused themselves but see their partner’s relationship with their children as loving and positive, it may feel selfish to consider leaving – surely it’s better for the children to have two parents? Well, no, not if one parent is harming the other.

Children are often witness to the abuse that is going on in their home, even if their parents don’t realise it. Research suggests that in the vast majority of cases of domestic violence in households with kids, the children are in the same or adjacent room while the abuse takes place. And even if they don’t see what’s happening, they may hear it – and notice the evidence later, for instance they may see a parent’s bruises.

domestic violence

Think of the children

The trauma of living with domestic violence can show itself in children in many ways, much like other forms of stress – including anxiety, sleep problems, bedwetting, tantrums and bad behaviour. They may feel scared, confused, angry and powerless. Older children may also try to intervene, to protect their abused parent, and get caught up in the violence themselves. None of this suggests that ‘staying together for the sake of the children’ is a viable option if you’re the victim of domestic violence.

The good news is that there is help out there for anyone affected – from refuges for women and children, and helplines for victims of both sexes, to counselling for children traumatised by domestic violence, and treatment programmes for the abusers themselves. There are even temporary fostering services for household pets, so they needn’t be a reason to someone to stay and suffer the violence any longer.

Helps is at hand

Thankfully there’s now widespread recognition that domestic violence is not a ‘private matter’, to be dealt with (or not) behind closed doors. There is sadly still plenty of fear, guilt and shame around being abused in this way – but also plenty of help readily available.If any of this rings a bell for you, surely you owe it to yourself and your children not to suffer in silence but instead to speak out and make yourselves safe. Please.

For female (and male) victims

http://refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/

For male victims

Run by Respect, and linked from Refuge’s site: http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk/pages/who-we-are-advice.html

Rather more radical and campaigning:

http://www.mankind.org.uk/factsmalevicitms.html

For children witnessing domestic violence

http://www.childline.org.uk/explore/homefamilies/pages/domesticviolence.aspx

http://www.thehideout.org.uk/default.aspa

Pet fostering

http://refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-about-pets/

For perpetrators of domestic violence

http://www.respect.uk.net/

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About Alison McKay

About Alison McKay

Alison McKay is a charity PR professional with over 15 years' experience in full-time, part-time and jobshare roles. Since being made redundant while on maternity leave, she has divided her time between working for a local museum, freelance and volunteer writing, and being chief wrangler to a two-year-old mud-magnet and an almost-seven-year-old wannabe dog-care worker with a penchant for hair accessories. Alison's hobbies include yoga, reading cookery books and putting away just enough clean laundry to keep the pile below 3ft tall.

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