Domestic violence, or family violence, is violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour in a relationship. There are many types of domestic violence, including emotional, sexual, social, financial, spiritual and physical abuse.
If you’re dealing with domestic violence, there are a number of organisations that can offer you help and support.
This can help if:
- you’re in an abusive relationship
- you don’t know what to do about your abusive relationship
- you don’t know where to go to get help.
What is domestic violence?
For violence to be ‘domestic’, it doesn’t have to occur within your home, only within a relationship (with a family member or an intimate partner). It occurs when someone close to you has power and control over you. This control or abuse can be expressed in different ways.
Emotional abuse often goes unrecognized, but it can be very hurtful. Someone who is emotionally abusive towards you wants to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence.
The term ‘sexual abuse’ covers rape, indecent assault and a wide range of other unwanted sexual behaviours used by offenders as a way to control their victims.
Social domestic violence occurs when someone insults or humiliates you in front of other people, keeps you isolated from family and friends, or controls what you do and where you go.
If someone close to you controls your finances and access to money, and keeps you financially dependent on them so that you always have to ask them for money, this is a form of domestic violence.
Spiritual domestic violence involves preventing you from having your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs and values. It may also involve causing you to doubt your thoughts on spirituality in order to make you feel powerless. Attempting to cause shame is a large part of spiritual abuse, as is preventing people from practising their religious or cultural beliefs.
If you are in a relationship where you are being hurt or threatened, it’s important to know that you don’t have to stay and you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Lots of different kinds of support are available to help you.
Signs of an abusive relationship
It may not always be obvious that you’re in an abusive relationship. It can be common for someone who is being abused to believe that it’s their own fault and that they somehow ‘deserve’ the abuse. Remember: you’re never to blame for the way an abusive person treats you.
A relationship can be violent and abusive without physical violence. It can include emotional, sexual and physical abuse, and may involve control of your finances.
Here are some signs to look for.
- They check on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with.
- They try to control where you go and who you see, and get angry if you don’t do what they say.
- They constantly send text messages and want to know what you are doing every moment of the day.
- They accuse you of being unfaithful or of flirting.
- They isolate you from family and friends, often by behaving rudely to them.
- They put you down, either publicly or privately, by attacking your intelligence, appearance, opinions, mental health or capabilities.
- They constantly compare you unfavourably to others.
- They blame you for all the problems in your relationship, and for their violent outbursts.
- They say things like, ‘No one else will want you.’
- They yell or sulk, and deliberately break things that you value.
- They threaten to use violence against you, your family, friends or a pet.
Physical and sexual violence
- They push, shove, hit or grab you, or make you have sex or do things you don’t want to do.
- They harm you, your family members or your pets.
How can you keep yourself safe?
An abuser may try to control you by downplaying the seriousness of what they’re doing to you. As a result, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of danger you’re in. It’s very important to protect yourself from harm if you feel that you’re being abused. You never have to do this alone. It’s really important that you have support.