Over the years of practising as a psychotherapist, I have worked with many survivors of sex, childhood and domestic abuse. The feelings run deep, and leave emotional scars that can last for many years.
The significance of non-physical forms of domestic abuse has been in the news this week, with a new bill aiming to recognise economic abuse, together with banning abusers from cross examining victims in court.
An estimated 1.9 million incidents of domestic abuse were reported in 2017, including both men and women.
Although it is less talked about, though serious, is emotional abuse that ranges from withholding to controlling, intimidation, threats,manipulation and verbal abuse. The number of people affected is astronomical. Emotional abuse is insidious and slowly eats away at your confidence and self-esteem. The effects are long term, and can take even longer to recover from than blatant violence.
Facts About Abuse
Victims often minimise abuse. This is their denial. Domestic Violence includes, throwing or breaking things, threats, intimidation, slapping, shoving, hair-pulling, belittling, and forced sex. Here are some facts ;
Usually, abuse takes place behind closed doors.
Abusers deny their actions.
Abusers blame the victim.
Violence is preceded by verbal abuse.
Abuse damages your self-esteem.
The abuser needs to be right and in control.
The abuser is possessive and may try to isolate their partner from friends and family.
The abuser is hypersensitive and may react with rage.
Two-thirds of domestic violence perpetrators have been drinking.
One-third of victims have been drinking or using drugs.
The Typical Abuser
You may not realise that abusers feel powerless. They don’t act insecure to cover up the truth. In fact, they’re often bullies. The one thing they all have in common is that their motive is to have power over their victim. This is because they don’t feel that they have personal power, regardless of worldly success. To them, communication is a win-lose game. They often have the following personality profile:
Needy with unrealistic expectations of a relationship.
Needs to be right and in control.
Possessive; may try to isolate their partner from friends and family.
Hypersensitive and reacts aggressively.
Blames their behaviour on the victim or others.
Suffers from untreated mental health problems including depression or suicidal behaviour.
How to Respond
Most victims of abuse respond in a rational way: They explain themselves and believe that the abuser is interested in what they have to say. This lets abusers know that they’ve won and have control. Instead, one must design their own strategy and not react, thereby not rewarding the abusive behaviour. You can do this by not engaging, or by responding in an unpredictable way, such as with humour, which throws an abuser off-guard. You can also ask for the behaviour you want, set limits, and confront the abuse. Most victims do the opposite, and placate and appease an abuser to deescalate tension and the risk of harm. It rarely works, and abuse typically continues.
The Truth About Violence
If you’ve experienced violence—and that includes shoving, hair pulling, destroying property, threats, or intimidation—it’s essential to get support and learn how to set limits. Abusers will deny or minimise the problem—as do victims—and may claim that they can’t control themselves. This is untrue. They also blame their actions on you, implying that you need to change. You’re never responsible for someone else’s behaviour.
Steps You Can Take
It’s essential to build outside resources and talk about what’s going on in your relationship. A professional is the best person, because you can build your self-esteem and learn how to help yourself without feeling judged or rushed into taking action. If you can’t afford private individual therapy, find a local organisation offering support, learn all you can from books and online resources, join online forums. Do this even if it means keeping a secret. You’re entitled to your privacy.
Local support organisations in Bournemouth and Poole:
Bournemouth Community Support: 01202 547755
Bournemouth Women’s Refuge: 01202 547755
Poole Domestic Abuse Project 01202 710777.
Citizen Advice Bureau: 01202 290967
Dorset Rape Crisis: 01202 308855
Victim Support: 0808 168 9111
There are also national organisations which can help:
National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)
0800 970 2070
The National 24 Domestic Violence Helpline
0808 2000 247
Mankind Initiative For Men experiencing/have experienced domestic abuse 01823 334244
Mens Advice Line For Men experiencing Domestic Violence and Abuse 0808 801 0327
Survivors UK For Men who have been raped or sexually abused 0845 122 1201