There is one call every minute to the police about abuse within a relationship. This high statistic highlights just how important it is to recognise signs of abuse, either as a victim or as an outsider.
Last year a new law was brought in against “controlling or coercive behaviour”. This law was brought in to illustrate that physical abuse is no longer considered the one and only problem in domestic settings.
A variety of charities are backing a new programme called “Drive”. This programme looks to give one-to-one support to men considered at high risk of domestic violence. Putting 900 offenders through the scheme, it is hoped that we can better understand and deal with the root cause of domestic abuse.
In its physical manifestation, this problem kills two women every week. Below are six signs of an abusive relationship to look out for:
1. Abuser blaming the victim
If an individual provides seemingly unwarranted excuses for their partner’s behaviour, this could be a sign of abuse. Pamela Jacobs, an advocate for ending sexual assault, says it is common for abusers to play the victim, placing guilt for their actions on their partner.
2. Seeming isolated
If women or men start seeing friends and family less than they used to, this could be an indication that something is going on. Lisa Fontes, who has a PhD in Counselling Psychology says the abuser may be restricting activities to spending time only with them. If you feel as if you have no one you can speak to, or that it would be shameful to do so, this could be a sign of an abusive relationship.
3. Having messages checked
Worryingly, around 40% of 16 to 25-year-olds have been exposed to controlling behaviour in the form of having their correspondences checked. This could be phone messages, emails or social media accounts. Sadly, only a tiny fraction of this percentage recognised this as coercive control, now punishable under the Serious Crime Act 2015 (research from Women’s Aid).
People who think it’s the norm to have partners check their texts and emails may be in a controlling relationship. The rise of mobile technology makes some forms of controlling behaviour that much easier for abusers.
This is a type of mental abuse used to make the victim question and mistrust their version of reality (named after 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ on the same topic). For example, an abuser may tell you that an event didn’t happen and that it was a figment of their imagination.
5. Acts of violence (even seemingly ‘small’ ones)
Abuse within relationships don’t have to be extremely violent to be coercive. Dr Fontes explains, “It can be rather constant, small acts that just let her know that she lives in a violent relationship.” This could involve getting very close to the victim’s face, restricting them physically so they can’t move anywhere or pushing them. Victims may deny that this is an example of abuse.
6. Financial abuse
Domestic abuse charity Refuge say taking money or taking control of credit cards is a common form of restricting the freedom of a partner. Hollie Gazzard reported that her ex-boyfriend Asher Maslin stole money from her bank account before he murdered her. According to Refuge, being unable to afford rent or possessions without permission from a partner is a key method of control and should immediately raise red flags.