Domestic abuse is a widely discussed topic throughout the UK and Ireland and across the globe, however the more it is talked about, the more risk there is of false information being passed about.
We’ve compiled a range of commonly heard myths and frequently asked questions below in a bid to help you understand the basics when it comes to domestic abuse. Read on to find out more.
Although it is undeniable that men can be and are victims of domestic abuse too, evidence from a range of sources including police records, crime statistics and research from a range of domestic abuse organisations shows that women are disproportionately in the position of victim.
We assert that domestic abuse is a gendered crime and is perpetuated by women’s unequal position in society.
Domestic abuse is not about losing control. In fact, it is most commonly about having control. Perpetrators want to gain as much power and control over their victim as possible so when they inflict abuse, whether it’s physical, verbal, sexual or emotional, they are exerting control, not losing it.
It is a common myth that abusers “see red” or “just lose it”; this narrative is damaging because it implies that the victim did something to provoke the abuser, therefore is victim-blaming. It also suggests that the abuser has an anger problem and that they are not responsible for their actions. Whilst some abusers may have anger or temper issues, it’s safe to say not all do.
Additionally, it is highly unlikely that the abuser “loses” it with everyone in their life, such as their friends and colleagues, which begs the question what is it about their partner that makes them lose control so severely? The answer is clear; it is not to do with their partner’s actions and is all about the abuser having control over their partner by instilling fear into them.
Domestic abuse does not always include physical violence; it also includes emotional, verbal, financial and sexual abuse, and can include stalking behaviours and digital abuse too. The key thing to remember is that all forms of abuse fall under the umbrella of coercive control.
Coercive control includes assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation all with the intention to harm, punish or frighten the victim. Perpetrators will use a range of actions in order to control their victim, including the different forms of abuse mentioned above.
Any form of domestic abuse is unacceptable – you don’t have to have been punched, kicked or slapped for it to be considered abuse.
We know from years of working with women who have suffered domestic abuse that the abuse does not always stop when she walks away. This is another myth that perpetuates victim-blaming and insinuates that leaving the relationship is as easy as getting up and walking out of the door.
We know that domestic abuse is all about control and power, which is why it is not true that ending the relationship would stop the perpetrator from abusing the victim. Instead, we often find that the abuser will continue to harass and abuse the woman, often using digital or financial abuse to maintain their control.
Domestic abuse unfortunately does affect children; just because they are not directly targeted by the perpetrator does not mean they are not impacted by what is happening at home. In fact, domestic abuse is the most frequently reported form of trauma that children experience, and it is estimated that 1 in 7 children witness domestic abuse at home in the UK.
For a child, living in a home where domestic abuse is taking place increases the risk of disrupted social development. It can affect how they interact with friends, with teachers and affect their school life in terms of academic achievement too.
We have seen many examples of perpetrators using children as a means of further abusing their partner. For example, the abuser might tell the children that their mother is a bad mother, is “crazy” or can’t look after them properly in order to manipulate and control the mother.
Women might stay in a relationship with their abuser for a range of reasons. We believe that it is important to never judge a woman for staying with a partner who is abusive, and instead offer support that suits her needs best.
Some reasons she might not leave the relationship are:
– She is frightened of what might happen if she tries to leave
– She is worried for the safety of her children
– She doesn’t have the money to support herself and/or her children on her own
– She has nowhere safe to stay
Isolating the woman from friends and family is a common tactic used by abusers, so often when it comes to the point where they want to leave, they feel they can’t as they have nowhere and no-one to turn to.
It is also important to know that leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time for the woman as it often triggers anger in the abuser as they feel they have lost or are losing control.
If you are in an abusive relationship and want to leave, we have safety planning tips that can help you. Likewise if you do not want to leave or do not feel like you could do so safely, please reach out for support via phone, email or web chat – we can help you.
Domestic abuse is much more common than you might think; at least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in Northern Ireland will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic abuse statistics released by the PSNI provide an indication of how common it is, with the police responding to an incident every 17 minutes, however we know that many incidents and crimes go unreported and so the actuality of domestic abuse incidents and crimes is likely much higher.
Domestic abuse is a very serious issue which can affect not only the direct victim at the time, but also their relationships with family and friends, work life, financial stability, relationships with their children for a long time after the abuse has stopped.
Domestic abuse is a gendered crime which is a direct result of women’s position in society. This is not to deny that women can be abusers too – it is undeniable that men are also victims of domestic abuse and deserving of support.
However, data shows that the percentage of perpetrators who are male is much higher than the percentage of perpetrators who are female. According to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, in 2018/19 86% of offenders dealt with by police in connection with domestic abuse crimes were male, 12% were female and 2% did not have their gender recorded. In the same report, the Policing Board note that in the same year 69% of all domestic abuse crime victims were female and 31% were male.
Of course false allegations of abuse have been known to be made, however they are extremely rare. Data from a study released by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2013 showed that in the 17 month period the study took place, there were 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence and only six prosecutions for making false allegations of abuse in England and Wales.
Accusing women of lying about abuse is very dangerous; the fear of not being believed or have people call you a liar puts women off seeking help and reporting the abuse they live with.
If you think a friend, colleague or family member is suffering domestic abuse from their partner it can be tough to know how to approach the topic with them. We’d advise approaching them with sensitivity and care, offering to listen but being careful not to be overbearing. They may not be ready to talk to you or want to discuss it at all, and that’s okay.
Let them know you are there to support them if they choose to come to you. Read our tips about supporting someone you know.