Recognising domestic abuse and where to find help if it is happening to you.
In the UK alone 1 in 4 women a week will experience domestic violence and 2 women will die every week from an attack perpetrated on them by their current, or even ex, partner.
In countries larger than the UK these appalling figures are much worse.
What constitutes domestic abuse?
Many women never realise that domestic abuse is all about control. It is never, ever about love. It is easy to recognise abuse when it comes as obvious violence, when it comes in the form of a beating ... but abuse takes many forms.
A man who withholds most of his earnings for his own pleasures and then expects his partner/wife to pay bills and find money for food out of the little he hands over is being abusive.
Some men even expect their women to pay for everything in the household, including his food, out of what money they (the women) earn. We all know it is impossible to run a household on little money. And while this form of abuse is not as obvious as rape it is still abuse.
The problem is that is so easy to become brain-washed into being a doormat, to think that somehow you have deserved the beating or the constant, degrading sneers chipping away at your self-esteem. Yes, emotional abuse is abuse too.
Even the long silences, the sulky refusal to speak is a form of manipulatory abuse designed to make the partner feel guilty and unloved so that they plead to be forgiven for whatever petty infringement they have committed.
(And here I’m not talking about staying quiet until you have got anger or a bad mood under control, I’m talking about many days of cold silences and ignoring their partner. To be fair I think we are all aware this can be a female tactic as much as a male one).
Why women stay in abusive relationships.
Yet unbelievable as women in happy relationships find it, there are still women out there who will stay with the men who subject them to such cruel coercion.
Their tragedy is that they truly believe that their men still love them. It may be all they know, it may be how they think every woman lives, it may be what they saw in their parent’s relationship so they believe it to be normal.
The only fact that is constant is that the only person who can do anything about her situation is the woman involved and she has to recognise that she is being abused.
Is jealousy love?
Most of these women believe that deep down their partner still loves them so they struggle on with the beatings, hoping he’ll change.
Often pretty, young women continue to live with a man who abuses them, naively believing that their beauty can change him. They are always wrong, this story of Beauty and the Beast never has a happy ending and some of them pay for this mistake with their lives .
They believe he lashed out because he was jealous which just proves that he loves them, doesn't it? The short answer is no, it doesn’t mean that.
Jealousy is never about love. Like rape it is only ever about having some sort of power over another person. It is quite simply an attempt at complete control of the woman. The jealousy that these men feel, and use as an excuse for inexcusable actions, is usually totally unfounded in fact.
No woman in an abusive relationship would dare to look at another man let alone make any sort of advance. She knows what provokes her partner and seeks to avoid that at all costs.
Unfortunately, it takes so very little to ignite her partner’s anger; a mere glance, an accidental jostle on the way to the ladies room, thanking someone for picking up something dropped. All very innocent … but it can be fatal.
Unreasoning jealousy is all in the mind of the man when he is faced with someone he sees as somehow better than himself and as such this unsuspecting rival represents the threat of loss of control of his property, the woman.
The abuser rarely challenges the potential rival, preferring to take out his annoyance on the softer target, his woman. Most abusers are simply grown-up playground bullies.
The insincerity of the abuser’s remorse.
The majority of abusers appear to feel remorse and apologise for their behaviour but sadly they will be violent again because they are made that way. This is almost as much of a tragedy for the man as it is for the woman.
Sadly it may well be impossible to help him recover from whatever it was in his upbringing that made him think that cruelty, be it physical, sexual, financial or psychological, is acceptable in a relationship.
But it is difficult to show too much sympathy for him as, unlike the woman, he rarely winds up dead or permanently physically damaged.
And what happens to those few desperate women who take their salvation into their own hands by killing an attacking abuser in self-defence?
They are so rare that they end up in the media as a lurid news item despite often being stoically championed by other women who have been in that situation. This often has only minimal effect as they are also often vilified for their final murderous stand by people who have no idea of what they have been through.
Any man can be an abuser.
We know not all men are abusive. Thankfully the greater majority are the soft-hearted, dearly loved males that share our beds, snore, fart and pinch the duvet.
But any man, from any social standing, can be abusive. Stereotyping might lead us to believe it will always be the shaven-headed, tattooed thug who is abusive. Whilst this may well be true occasionally it is also equally true that he could wear a suit, come from a wealthy home and have a high-flying career in the city.
Domestic violence and related abuses are not necessarily defined by boundaries of class ... or country.
- A Fashion Designer Uses Her Mannequins To Send A Message That Hurts
A storefront is stopping people in their tracks, and it's not a sale.
Support for victims of violence.
It usually takes a very long time for abused women to realise that they need to leave the marital home if they are to survive. It also takes a great deal of courage.
Accepting change can be difficult for many of us at the best of times but for women who are emotionally and physically damaged and often toting children it can be a great deal more intimidating.
For many it's a case of the devil you know being better than the unknown, even if the devil is fact rather than fiction and the unknown can only lead to a better life.
Then there is the very real fear of pursuit and the certainty of retribution. It is no coincidence that women's refuges are so secretive.
The Women’s Aid Network.
Once upon a time in the dark days before the internet, women's refuges were kept a deep secret by The Women's Aid Network until a victim somehow found a way to contact them.
Nowadays, Women's Aid has a sophisticated computer network of linked organisations that help women find sanctuary in every corner of Britain.
This, you would think would leave the women vulnerable to discovery by their husbands but the website gives clear advice to women on how they can cover their tracks.
This advice ranges from not using the home computer, i.e. using an internet cafe or the computer in the local library, to how to clear the browsing history, cookies etc. on the home computer.
So, the safe house is still a very safe house and many women are saved by this valuable resource but it is still up to them to dredge up the courage to seek help in the first place.
To those who are mothers of children I would say this, 'Do it for the mental and emotional health of your children if you can't do it for yourself. They are the future generation who will not only be scarred by what they see but may also grow up to believe that to abuse women is normal, acceptable behaviour'.
A supportive sisterhood: the role of feminism today.
It may seem that feminism has declined somewhat in its stridency since the heady days of no bras, dungarees and pints of Guinness in female hands.
Now, regrettably, there are still many women who do not realise that there is such a thing as International Women's Day on the 8th of March.
It has been celebrated by women for over a hundred years now and it is a day when women can freely voice their concerns and continue to strive for equality with men. In some countries International Women’s Day is a women-only holiday.
And whilst I know many people, both male and female, think that the women’s movement is a spent force I would urge you to consider this. If it hadn't been for feminism many of us would still be chained to the kitchen sink with few rights.
Anything we inherited would pass automatically to our husbands, even our children would be his property. We would still be poorly paid, the glass ceiling would be double-glazed and there would be no help network for abused women.
But feminism is still there, behind the scenes, whether you call it feminism or friendship. It is there when women watch out for one another, when we realise that another woman might need help and we are ready and willing to offer it.
It really is that simple. It’s simply feminism by another name ... it's called sisterhood and its core is compassion.
These are only a few links to helpful resources.
- Women\'s Aid - Homepage
Women's Aid is the key national charity working to end domestic violence against women and children. We support a network of over 900 domestic and sexual violence services across the UK.
- Refuge - Domestic Violence Help | Domestic Abuse Charity
Domestic Violence help for women and children : Refuge is a UK national charity
- National Organization for Women (NOW)
The National Organization for Women (NOW): Taking action for women's equality since 1966. News from NOW: stories about women and feminism, action alerts, and more
Help is only a click away ...
Although I have not been able to cover every country in my links help is still there. All it takes to find it is a computer.
If you do not have access to a computer borrow a friend’s or find an internet cafè or library with internet access then type in ‘aid for abused women in (insert your own country)’.
If domestic abuse is your problem, if it is the reason you have read this piece then I wish you strength and good luck.