Domestic abuse: getting help
You are not alone if you are a victim of domestic abuse and
there are lots of organisations to help you.
What to do if you are a victim of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse is one of the worst forms of abuse. It can
include physical assault, sexual abuse and verbal threats. It can
also include more subtle attacks such as pressure tactics, constant
breaking of trust, isolation, psychological games and
It can affect partners in all types of relationships and can
also involve abuse between parents and children.
If you are in an abusive relationship, there are three important
steps you can take.
- Recognise that it is happening to you
- Accept that you are not to blame
- Get help and support
In an emergency, you should call the police on 999 (minicom 0800
112 999). Domestic abuse is treated very seriously by the police
and the courts.
You can also call the 24 Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on
0808 2000 247.
There are other people and organisations you can turn to if you
are suffering from domestic abuse. These can include your GP, local
support groups and charities.
Please click on the below link to be redirected to the
Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership website. http://www.bedsdv.org.uk/.
This website will give you further information about what to do and
who can help you if you are suffering from domestic abuse.
To find a
domestic violence service in Bedford visit Home Group’s Stonham
services website for more information:
Home Group is the largest provider of care and
support services in the UK and offers confidential help and support
to victims of domestic violence.
What is domestic abuse?
There are a number of different definitions of domestic abuse.
In Women's Aid's view, domestic abuse is physical, psychological,
sexual or financial abuse that takes place within an intimate or
family-type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and
controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and
so-called 'honour' crimes. Domestic abuse often includes a range of
abusive behaviours, not all of which are, in themselves, inherently
'violent' - hence some people prefer to use the term 'domestic
abuse' rather than 'domestic abuse'.
Domestic abuse is very common: research shows that it affects
one in four women in their lifetime. Two women a week are killed by
their partners or former partners. All forms of domestic abuse -
psychological, financial, emotional and physical - come from the
abuser's desire for power and control over an intimate partner or
other family members. Domestic abuse is repetitive and
life-threatening, it tends to worsen over time and it destroys the
lives of women and children.
Crime statistics and research show that domestic abuse is gender
specific - that is, it is most commonly experienced by women and
perpetrated by men, particularly when there is a pattern of
repeated and serious physical assaults, or when it includes rape or
sexual assault or results in injury or death. Men can also
experience abuse from their partners (both within gay and straight
relationships); however women's abuse towards men is often an
attempt at self defence, and is only rarely part of a consistent
pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour. For this reason, we
will generally refer to the abuser as 'he' and to the survivor as
Domestic abuse also has an enormous effect on the children in
the family. Nearly three-quarters of children considered 'at risk'
by Social Services are living in households where one of their
parents/carers is abusing the other. A high proportion of these
children are themselves being abused - either physically or
sexually - by the same perpetrator. (Estimates vary between 30% to
66% depending upon the study.)
Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race,
ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle. Domestic
abuse can also take place in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
relationships. Domestic abuse can also be perpetrated by other
family members (for example, extended family). In some cases, older
children - teenagers or young adults - are violent or abusive
towards their mothers or other family members.
Although every situation is unique, there are common factors
that link the experience of an abusive relationship. Acknowledging
these factors is an important step in preventing and stopping the
abuse. This list can help you to recognise if you, or someone you
know, are in an abusive relationship.
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting; mocking;
accusing; name calling; verbally threatening.
- Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money,
disconnecting the telephone, taking the car away, taking the
children away, or reporting you to welfare agencies unless you
comply with his demands; threatening or attempting suicide;
withholding or pressuring you to use drugs or other substances;
lying to your friends and family about you;
telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
- Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other
people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting
your telephone calls; taking money from your purse without asking;
refusing to help with childcare or housework.
- Breaking trust: lying to you; withholding information from you;
being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises and
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls; telling
you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends
and relatives; shutting you in the house. Harassment: following
you; checking up on you; not allowing you any privacy (for example,
opening your mail), repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned
you; embarrassing you in public; accompanying you everywhere you
go. Threats: making angry gestures; using physical size to
intimidate; shouting you down; destroying your possessions;
breaking things; punching walls; wielding a knife or a gun;
threatening to kill or harm you and the children; threatening to
kill or harm family pets; threats of suicide.
- Sexual abuse: using force, threats or intimidation to make you
perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don't want it;
forcing you to look at pornographic material; forcing you to have
sex with other people; any degrading treatment related to your
sexuality or to whether you are lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.
Physical abuse: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching;
kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning;
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn't happen; saying you caused the
abusive behaviour; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and
begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.
Is domestic abuse a crime?
Domestic abuse can include a number of different behaviours, and
there is no single criminal offence of 'domestic abuse'. Not all
forms of domestic abuse are illegal; some forms of emotional abuse,
for example, are not defined as criminal - though these can also
have a serious and lasting impact on a woman's or child's sense of
well-being and autonomy.
However, many kinds of domestic abuse constitute a criminal
offence, including physical assault, wounding, attempting to choke,
sexual assault, rape, threats to kill, harassment, stalking and
putting people in fear of abuse.
Who is responsible for the abuse?
The abuser is always responsible for the abuse, and should be
held accountable. There is no excuse for domestic abuse and the
victim is never responsible for the abuser's behaviour.
'Blaming the victim' is something that abusers will often do to
make excuses for their behaviour, and quite often they manage to
convince their victims that the abuse is indeed their fault. This
is part of the pattern and is in itself abusive. Blaming their
behaviour on someone else, or on the relationship, their childhood,
their ill health, or their alcohol or drug addiction is one way in
which many abusers try to avoid personal responsibility for their
It is important that any intervention to address domestic abuse
prioritises the safety of victims/survivors and holds the
Women and men, victims and survivors
This handbook is primarily addressed to women for the following
The majority of domestic violence as defined above is perpetrated
by men and experienced by women.
- Women's Aid's information and support services exist to respond
to the needs of women and children.
- The Men’s Advice Line and the Mankind Initiative offer support
to male victims of domestic abuse
- An organisation called Respect operates a website and helpline
for perpetrators of domestic abuse
However, most of the information here would also apply equally to
men who are on the receiving end of abuse, whether from a male or a
The terms 'victim' and 'survivor' are both used, depending on
the context. 'Survivor' is, however, preferred as it emphasises an
active, resourceful and creative response to the abuse, in contrast
to 'victim', which implies passive acceptance. If you are reading
this, then you are - at least to some extent - a survivor.
Department of Health (2002) 'Women's Mental health: Into the
Mainstream: Strategic development of mental health care for women'
(London: DH) Farmer, E. and Pollack, S. (1998) 'Substitute care for
sexually abused and abusing children' (Chichester: Wiley) Walby,
Sylvia and Allen, Jonathan (2004) 'Domestic abuse, sexual assault
and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey' (London: Home
Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate)