Domestic violence; silent killer

When we think of domestic violence we often think of physical violence which involves a spouse or an intimate partner. This usually involves force against someone which results in injury or endangers that person. Whether this occurs once or over some time, physical assault or battering, regardless if the abuser is a partner or a family member is still a crime punishable by law.

Domestic abuse:

  • Will affect one in four women and one in six men in their lifetime.

  • Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year.

  • Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however, it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police.

400 people complete suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to complete suicide.

Signs that you're in an abusive relationship:

  • they have an unpredictable temper

  • they hurt you, threaten to kill you or hurt a family member

  • they threaten to kill or hurt your pet

  • they threaten to complete suicide or self-harm if you leave

  • they threaten to take your children away

  • they threaten to throw acid or hot water in your face. 

Victims of domestic violence often feel alone, isolated from friends and family. They often feel unable to talk to anyone about what they are going through due to fear of being judged, ashamed for not leaving or leaving and returning to the abusive relationship and feeling trapped. At times the abuser has threatened to expose intimate pictures to family friends and work colleagues.

Do you:

  • walk on eggshells

  • feel afraid or unease

  • selective with what to say or not say

  • feel you’re overreacting

  • think that you probably deserve to be mistreated

  • feel unable to do the things you enjoy

  • feel unable to socialise with friends
  • question yourself.

Emotional abuse is often an area not talked about and an area described as worse than physical violence. Physical abuse often leaves scars or bruises which makes it easier for an outsider to see. Emotional abuse is what I call invisible scars, scars only the victim can see and feel. Invisible scars with the power to alter the relationship one has with the self. Emotional abuse runs deep and is just as damaging as physical abuse - sometimes even more so.

Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimised or overlooked - even by the person being abused. A lot of victims describe emotional abuse as more damaging and it does not heal so easily. 

The aim of the abuser is to wear you down to the point whereby you no longer trust your own judgement or decisions, you no longer recognise the person in the mirror. It chips away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. Breaking you down in order to become dependent, to make your world as small and meaningless as possible, to the point whereby you feel you cannot live with him/her in your life; to dehumanise you.    

Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as shouting, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviour also fall under emotional abuse.

Does he/she:

  • make jokes about you in front of others

  • criticise you and put you down

  • call you names

  • blame you for their behaviour

  • make you think you're mentally ill

  • make you second guess yourself

  • treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see

  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments

  • see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

A lot of women and men also report the feeling of being controlled and almost harassed by their partner or family member. This is often a recurring pattern by the abuser as a way of exerting power and control. Which leaves the victim feeling overwhelmed, isolated, trapped and unable to seek support.

Does he/she:

  • act excessively jealous and possessive

  • control where you go or what you do

  • keep you from seeing your friends or family

  • limit your access to money, the phone, or the car

  • constantly check up on you.

Domestic violence/abuse can often leave you feeling depleted, lost, confused, no longer able to recognise yourself. It is a silent killer, you exist rather than living. Counselling is an opportunity to find your voice again, to find yourself, to take control and power back. It is not an easy step to take or process but you do not have to be alone.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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