How to recognise abusive behaviour and where to seek help
Adapted from Women’s Aid with kind permission.
What is abuse?
Abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Harassment and stalking
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Coercive control
Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.
- Financial or economic abuse
Financial abuse involves a perpetrator using or misusing money which limits and controls their partner’s current and future actions and their freedom of choice. It can include using credit cards without permission, putting contractual obligations in their partner’s name, and gambling with family assets. Economic abuse is wider in its definition than ‘financial abuse’, as it can also include restricting access to essential resources such as food, clothing or transport, and denying the means to improve a person’s economic status (for example, through employment, education or training).
- Online or digital abuse
Online domestic abuse can include behaviours such as monitoring of social media profiles or emails, abuse over social media such as Facebook or Twitter, sharing intimate photos or videos without your consent, using GPS locators or spyware.
Who can experience abuse?
The vast majority of abuse perpetrators are men towards women, but women can be abusers too. In the majority of cases abuse is inflicted by a partner or ex-partner, a family member or carer.
How to recognise abuse
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.
They include :
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting; mocking; accusing; name calling; verbally threatening.
- Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money, disconnecting the phone and internet, taking away or destroying your mobile, tablet or laptop, taking the car away, taking the children away; threatening to report you to the police, social services or the mental health team unless you comply with demands; threatening or attempting self-harm and 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 you 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 shared agreements.
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your phone calls, e-mails and social media accounts, 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, going through your laptop, tablet or mobile), repeatedly checking to see who has phoned 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 violence: 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; constant pressure and harassment into having sex when you don’t want to, 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 violence: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling, pinning you down, holding you by the neck, restraining you.
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abuse; saying you wind them up; saying they can’t control their anger; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.
"It was brilliant to feel supported and to have someone else say that how I was being treated was not okay or normal."
If you think you might be in immediate danger call 999, If you cannot talk, dial 55 and the operator will respond
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