Physical abuse is possibly the first thought many people have when they hear the term ‘domestic abuse’, though it is not the only form of abuse that affects women.
Examples of physical abuse include:
Pushing, shoving, strangling, burning, kicking, slapping, stabbing, shooting, force-feeding, starving and poisoning.
We find that physical abuse is often inflicted with other forms of abuse, such as sexual or emotional abuse.
Sexual abuse is possible and does happen within intimate partner relationships. Being in a relationship with or married to someone does not give them the automatic right to sexual activity with or around you. Consent is always essential, even in
Examples of sexual abuse include:
Unwanted kissing or touching, being physically forced or emotionally manipulated into performing sexual acts, being made to feel guilty for not consenting to sexual acts, assault by penetration of objects inside the body, vaginal, anal or oral rape.
We often find that the women we support are hesitant to disclose sexual abuse. This is because of the shame, guilt and fear that perpetrators instil in their victims through sexual abuse, however it is nothing to be ashamed of. Any form of abuse, including
sexual, is never the victim’s fault.
Financial abuse is one of the more hidden forms of abuse, yet has the ability to devastate a woman’s life. It is used by perpetrators as a means of controlling their victim and increasing the victim’s dependency on them. According to the UK charity Refuge, there are nearly a million people living in the UK right now who are in a relationship with a partner who is financially abusive.
Examples of financial abuse include:
Enforcing allowances, using debit or credit cards without permission, taking our paid contracts in the victim’s name without permission, not allowing the victim to have their own job or bank account, forcing the victim to explain every purchase.
Financial abuse plays a huge part in a woman’s ability to leave a partner who is abusing them, so much so that in a recent report by Surviving Economic Abuse more than half of women who experience domestic abuse said they had no money so they cannot leave.
Emotional abuse falls under the umbrella of coercive control, and is used by perpetrators to wear down their victim, making them doubt themselves and lose their independence. Emotional abuse is unlikely to be present from the start of the relationship, but from our experience builds and worsens over time.
Examples of emotional abuse include:
Accusations of cheating, criticising what the victim does, says, or wears, giving them the ‘silent treatment’, name-calling, isolation from family & friends, gaslighting, withholding affection/attention.
In the digital age, it is vital that we educate ourselves on the risks of dating or communicating romantically via the internet or on apps, as well as the ways in which a partner can use online platforms to be abusive.
Examples of online & digital abuse include:
Monitoring social media profiles and emails, sharing intimate photos online without consent, tracking location using GPS locators, installing spyware on phones, tablets and computers.
Although there is currently no specific stalking legislation in NI, we know from our work that stalking is very much a form of abuse perpetrators use to instil fear and intimidate current or ex-partners. Stalking can be incredibly scary and isolating for the victim, especially if the perpetrator knows where you live.
Examples of stalking include:
Refusing to leave you alone after repeatedly asking them to, phoning from withheld numbers, spying/monitoring either in person or via the internet, showing up at your workplace without invitation, leaving unwanted cards or gifts for you, creating fictional
personas online to gain access to your information/profile. We are currently campaigning for stalking to become an offence in NI; the Justice Minister has shown an understanding of the seriousness of stalking, which we are encouraged by.
From our experience, coercive control underpins most forms of abuse. Coercive control can be defined as a pattern of acts of assault, threat, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse that are used to harm, punish or frighten.
Examples of coercive control include:
Isolation from friends & family, deprivation of basic needs e.g. food, water, sleep, controlling where you go, who you see, what you wear etc., saying you are & making you feel worthless, controlling your money, humiliating you in front of people, making
threats to use violence. You may notice that many of these examples of coercive control are also other forms of abuse, such as physical and financial. This is because at the heart of all abuse is control; all abusers want control over their victims and will do whatever it takes to have that.
As of January 2021, coercive control is now a criminal offence in NI.