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10 Signs of Domestic Abuse to look out for

Domestic abuse was reported to have been on a drastic rise since the beginning of the first lock-down. Characterised by an incident or re-occurring pattern of behaviour, consisting of one or multiple factors being; threatening, forceful, manipulative, coercing, violent, and degrading, domestic abuse can be delivered on many levels and in many forms, from emotional and physical to psychological and verbal. 

All forms of domestic abuse can do considerable damage to the person that it is inflicted upon and at times be fatal. Both males and females can be on the giving and receiving end of domestic violence, which is always very important to recognise.

 Gender does not play a role in who may become victim to domestic violence; both men and women can and do experience abuse. Victims of abuse may also be children, small babies and/or the elderly; there are no restrictions and many cases of all of the above do come up each year. 

Domestic abuse reports have commonly come from intimate relationships, where the abuse can be seen as a form of gaining power and control over the victim. Other forms of abuse include economic and sexual abuse.

10 Signs of Domestic Abuse to look out for 

Here are 10 signs that someone, or yourself, may be experiencing domestic. Remember, even in your own relationships, sometimes abuse can be subtle or gradual before it is recognisable, so keep these signs in mind for yourself and others as you navigate these relationships
1. Showing physical signs of abuse; e.g. bruising, bite marks, burns, scratches, skin imprints and more

An abuser may be inflicting physical harm, which can be visible to others. Studies show that physical abuse does not commonly come first, yet is a follow on from emotional abuse, which often occurs primarily. Violence often arises as the result of emotions boiling up inside an individual, to the point where they lash out. Noticing these physical signs can allow us to recognise and support victims to get help with domestic violence. 

2. Withdrawal from family, friends, work or less social presence 

A victim of domestic abuse may slowly or in some cases quite abruptly decrease contact with those around them. This is often due to restrictions and rules placed by the perpetrator, meaning the victim now lacks access to a safe place to go for the support that they require. Without access to social contact, the victim can continue facing abuse without anyone noticing. The victim may feel the need to ask their abuser for an “OK,” to see friends/family, which also acts as a factor of abuse. 

If you see someone digress to asking permission to see friends/family, go somewhere, or gradually or rapidly cutting off their connections with people, changing socially from the person they were before meeting a new partner or getting married or similar - this could be a sign to look out for and a red flag to possible abuse. Of course in some cases it is not but it is always worth being safe and checking in on this person.

3. Sexual abuse whether through forceful acts or lack of care for the victims preferences or opinion on the matter 

The perpetrator may inflict varying forms of sexual abuse upon their victim. These include forcing the victim into a sexual act against their will, or simply pressuring them into an act they are not comfortable with. The victim may be coerced or forced into dressing in a sexual way. The victim may also be made to feel as if they owe their perpetrator a sexual act. The perpetrator may also refuse to wear any forms of protection during intercourse, neglecting to care about the consequences or what the victim would prefer to take place. If the victim says "no" or shows signs of being  uncomfortable the perpetrator may go ahead with the action without acknowledging, stopping or caring about this. This is abuse.

4. Restricting, preventing, monitoring or taking away full access to the use of social media, phone, email, internet use etc

The victim may have a restricted access to or be removed completely from to their personal use of their social media, emails, phone, texts, and so on as a result of the perpetrator making it so. This allows the abuser to control what the victim expresses to others and how much freedom they have to be themselves, share their opinions and/or express their independent thoughts, views, images or feelings in front of others. 

This can be very dangerous due to the victim being incapable of reaching out for help. They may have some access but under surveillance, meaning they may also be being continuously watched and monitored by the perpetrator.

If suspecting this type of abuse is taking place, one should always be on the lookout for things like a lack of insight, a change in the tone of personal messages sent through social media by the victim and/or an abrupt decline in use. Also, if you do speak with the person and they mention having to hand over all their passwords for all their accounts to the perpetrator or they ask you not to message them anymore out of fear that they will be 'caught' talking about the wrong thing by the perpetrator, these are all signs that something may not be quite right.
Take heed all signs and remember, somethings that seems small could have something big behind it, follow your instincts on these things.

5. Being continuously diminished/criticised/lowered/put down

Victims of domestic violence are commonly made to feel a sensation of hopelessness. This can often be via the use of verbal abuse. 

Verbal abuse can start off very passive aggressive and subtle before it escalates to larger, more recognisable abuse tactics.

Constantly putting someone down, speaking badly about them and/or their characteristics, physical appearance, mannerisms or other parts of their personal identity can cause the person to feel small, unattractive, undesired and embarrassed about who they are. Taking away their self esteem and often peeling back their confidence without them even noticing until it is too late and they are already under the full influence of the perpetrator.

In some circumstances, the victim may defend themselves in the beginning, but after a long period of constant attacks, large or small, they may begin to tolerate, get used to and even trust the verbal abuse that they have fallen victim to.

Many people use the phrase "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" but this couldn't be further from the truth!  Words can cut very deep and the use of consistent negative verbal abuse can take a drastic toll on the victims mental and emotional health. This can also occur in social situations, with the abuser may take on measures to embarrass the victim in front of others, causing them to wish to avoid these outings in general and further isolate themselves in a shame created by the perpetrator, that they believe in.

6. Lacking ownership of personal finances / being kept out of work / not receiving adequate funds to provide for themselves 

A victim may have their own personal finances taken control of by the perpetrator. This lack of access means that they are not able to do day to day things like purchase food or clothing items by their own means, or go to certain places that they would like to visit without asking for travel money. If relying on their partner as a source of income, the victim may be cut down on funds for necessities to meet their basic needs, such as groceries and toiletries. The abuser may sometimes use money to gain control and power over the victim. 

7. Repetitive False Accusations 

The victim may be falsely accused of having affairs, flirting, looking at or communicating with others and acting "badly" by the perpetrator, even though all of this is known to be untrue. 

Accusations like these allow the perpetrator to make the victim feel bad about the actions they are being accused of; even if they are not doing them. It is a form of physiological bullying / manipulation which can lead to the victim once again choosing to isolate themselves from social media, social events and more, to avoid being accused or upsetting their partner.
These accusations can also be used by the perpetrator as a tactic to start off an argument so that they can torment their victim and lead on to abuse, which they can then blame the victim for starting.

Insecurity and a lack of trust can result in violent behaviour from the abuser, and if repetitive, can act as a warning signal to the start of a relationship consisting of toxic traits and domestic abuse. 

8. Self blaming and believing that the abuse is deserved

A victim may be dealt the blame for the abuse which they are facing from the perpetrator and they may believe that it is their own fault. 
A tactic of abusers is to lead the victim to believe that they deserve the treatment they are receiving, and that this is fair and simply a consequence of something the victim themselves did wrong.

This is again, a form of manipulation and can result in the victim believing this to be true, therefore continuing to live with it as they can be led to believe that this is how they should be treated. 

If you hear a friend, colleague or associate of any kind explaining away the wrong doings of their partner or saying that they deserve to be treated badly due to who or how they are, take note and stay supportive, they may be convinced by what their abuser has told them and no longer see things within the same reality that you do.

9. Denial of the abuse being received

A victim may be in denial about the abuse which is occurring, despite obvious signs that they are being abused and that it is wrong.
This can be for so many reasons. It can be that they are receiving threats from their abuser about what will happen tot hem if they tell anyone about the abuse. Alternatively it can be due to their personal wish to not address the situation or share it with anybody, out of embarrassment for example, or simply them not wanting to admit to themselves that they are being abused.

It is also not uncommon for the abuser themselves to be in denial. They may claim that the way that they have treated the victim is normal and they may actually believe this. They may fail to acknowledge the harm that is being caused by their own behaviour. They may believe that they have the "right" to their power over the victim due to being their husband or mother or due tot heir age, ranking or race. Quite commonly also, they may be completely aware of their actions but not wish to address them or admit that they are in the wrong because they wish to continue it.

10. Consistent harassment; stalking, phone calls, texts etc

A victim may face verbal, physical or sexual harassment, or all of the above at various times. The abuser may stalk the victim against their will, following them to locations such as their homes, work places, and other outings. This behaviour from the abuser will lead the victim to be made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Threatening or even subtle or silent (voiceless) phone calls can also take place, in which the victim may be subject to insults, rude language, name calling or constant calls where the abuser can be heard just breathing or staying silent and then hanging up, giving the message that they are still around and active, which can cause a deep sense of fear and even paranoia for the victim, impacting their metal and emotional health quite considerably.

So that was 10 signs in detail that could stand out to you and alert to you the fact that someone around you may be being abused in some form and may need support, help or guidance to free themselves from this ordeal.

What can you do to help yourself or a suspected victim?

You can call the freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Alternatively you can fill out this form about what you are experiencing on the Refuge website 

Did you know the following facts...

  • The police recorded a total of 1,459,663 domestic abuse-related incidents and crimes in England and Wales in the year ending March 2021.

  • Of these, 845,734 were recorded as domestic abuse-related crimes, an increase of 6% from the previous year, representing 18% of all offences recorded by the police in the year ending March 2021.

Estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales year ending March 2020 showed 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 years (2.3 million) experienced domestic abuse in the 12 months prior.

    Article by Crystal Emmanuel  and Olivia Tuokila 
    of She Inspired Her CIC

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    10 Signs of Domestic Abuse to look out for 10 Signs of Domestic Abuse to look out for Reviewed by Crystal Emmanuel on 17:24 Rating: 5

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