Domestic Violence Isn't Just About Being Hit

August 2020

I’ve just read something in the news this morning, that has made my gut churn. I knew it would happen, but it’s still making me feel physically ill because I’ve been in the position of so many of those people that the news report was referring to. The article was on the exponential rise of domestic violence since the start of this pandemic. A fact that didn’t surprise me…

The news story stated that from a survey of 15,000 Australian women, from the period of March to May this year, one in twenty suffered physical or sexual violence from their current or former partner, with most saying that it was the first time. There was also nearly one in eight that had experienced one form of emotionally abusive, harassing or controlling behaviour. They’re disheartening numbers. But what about the males? Males can be the victims of domestic violence too.

The article missed out on a lot of details, but the punchline was loud and clear: Isolation and being forced to stay at home, isn’t an ideal situation for many people and if anything, has exponentially increased the chance of abuse. But there was one thing that the article didn’t discuss… the definition of abuse. This is something that I struggled with and something that stopped me from making that call to authorities. What is the definition of domestic violence? What are the signs? What is deemed serious enough to report?

Before I go into my explanations of domestic violence and abuse, and what I would consider the signs, let me say that ANY form of violence or abuse should be enough to report, because it’s NOT okay to be someone’s punching bag, whether that’s physically, verbally or psychologically. It’s NOT okay to be forced into doing something that you’re not okay with. And it’s NOT okay for the abuser to get away with it.

Physical abuse – This one is probably the most obvious. The media has made sure that we’re well aware that the definition of physical abuse is when you’re physically hit and it’s bad enough that you end up in hospital. But it doesn’t start out like that. It can start out with a push or a shove that’s more forceful than it needs to be. It’s usually accompanied by hurtful words to make you feel emotionally bad and that it’s your fault. It can then turn into harder or more frequent hits, or pushes, where you lose balance and fall over or fall into things. It could also involve objects available around you, that are used as weapons. Physical abuse could also involve choking or forcefully being restrained. Overall though, this type of abuse usually leaves physical signs that is easier than the other types of abuse to report, because the evidence is visual.

Sexual abuse – This is another obvious one, where you’re forced into a sexual act without your consent. This type of abuse can start as subtle advances that are not welcomed before moving onto rape. It can be a one-off event or ongoing. I’m not going to go on about this one, but in short, if you say no, and the other person continues, it’s rape.

Mental / Psychological abuse – This type of abuse is much more common than people think and it’s a hard one to define and identify, and to prove. Personally, I think this is one of the more damaging types of abuse. Mental and psychological abuse is where you’re made to feel like the reasons why the other person is angry or why certain events have happened the way they have, are entirely your fault. You’re made to feel guilty, or even start second guessing and questioning yourself about what’s real and what’s not, because with this type of abuse, your attacker will make it out to always be your fault. Reasoning in these cases, doesn’t work and if you try calling out the attacker on what they’re doing, they’ll deny what happened or tell you that you’re delusional and making it all up in your head. They’ll make you think that you’re the one who’s crazy. In some cases, the abuser may start isolating you from family and friends, so that you have no-one but them to turn to, so that you can’t question what’s really going on. They may even deprive you of your sleep by waking you up throughout the night, or nagging you to complete tasks throughout the day / night, that result in minimal sleep, and then they’ll verbally attack you when you become even remotely cranky the following morning. This type of abuse may also include stalking, persistent calling, and checking / monitoring your phone. When this type of abuse is at its peak, you’ll feel completely worthless, lack confidence and continually second guess yourself. You’ll be walking on eggshells and probably be extremely submissive to your abuser, whilst they continue to tell you how worthless, useless or delusional you are. You’ll probably be subject to a lot of backward compliments too, and they may even tell you that you’re lucky to have them because there’s no one else out there that would want you. All these tactics are to keep you tied to the abuser and for you to not leave.

Financial abuse – This is the type of abuse where you’re restricted financially. You may have a job and earn your own money, but you’ll be made to feel guilty about how you spend your money, and in some cases, your abuser will take over the full management of your finances and limit how much you get. This limit may be less than what you need for everyday items and you’ll be verbally or physically abused if you ask for more money or if you spend any of it on something that they don’t approve it. They may even complain when you purchase something that they said was okay, by telling you after the item was purchased, that they said not to purchase it. It’s all meant to screw with your head and in my view, this is a type of psychological abuse, because they’re doing their best to manipulate and control you, and make you feel that you can’t do without them.

In my eyes, it’s wrong for any person to harass, belittle, manipulate or control you in a relationship, whether that’s a romantic relationship, a work relationship, a parent child relationship, or anything in between. It’s damaging in so many ways to the person being abused and for anyone on the side lines (little eyes see more than you think and little ears hear more than you realise), and at the end of the day, the person doing the abusing is just a bully. Yeah, you read that right, a bully. They’re someone who is insecure with themselves in some way, and they’re taking it out on someone else. They’d rather blame someone else than own up and take responsibility for themselves because at the end of the day, making someone else hurt more than they do, makes them feel better. And what a shitty existence that must be.

So what do you do if you think you’re being abused? Talk to someone, please. Find a friend, neighbour or anyone that you could safely talk to about it. If there’s no one that you can think of, or feel comfortable talking to, call the help and crisis phone line. There are plenty out there and if you try calling one and you don’t feel like you received the support that you wanted, call another one. I know that this can be difficult if you’re living with the abuser but try and find a way to take that first step. The people who work at those help centres know that it can be difficult to get away and report what happened. They won’t judge you. They’re really understanding because they deal with this every day. It’s more common than you think and there’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help. And don’t be discouraged if the friends and family that you do reach out to, don’t believe you; You know the truth so keep going until you find the help and support that you need. If you feel that you’re being abused in some way, chances are that you are, so make sure that it’s reported. The authorities will make sure that you’re safe and that there is a safe place to go if you need to leave your home. But please, don’t stay and put up with any kind of abuse. It’ll wear you down until you’re a sliver of the person that you used to be, and that’s a hard place to pick yourself up from. Trust me on that one. I’ve been there.

They say that change happens when you conclude that the unknown is better than staying in what you know. If you’ve been or are being abused, you’ll know deep down that it’s better to take action, than to keep going like you have been. You have a right to feel safe. Dig down deep and find that courage to take the first step and report it. Believe me, you’ll be better for it.

And if it’s not you that’s being abused but you think or know of someone who is, PLEASE reach out and help, because they might not be in a position to do it themselves. Don’t just stand by and let it happen. And don’t be fooled by what someone does and doesn’t post on social media about their lives… nothing is always what it seems and so many things happen behind closed doors. Again, I’m talking from my own personal experience.

If we all speak out, maybe we can bring some justice in, save a few lives and make this world a little bit better to live in.

If your life is in danger, please call 000 (or whatever the emergency services number is in your country).

If you need to talk to someone or need further information, I’ve included some links here. Please note that I’m not affiliated with any of these – I found them all after a quick online search. Feel free to do your own research on this topic and find contact numbers related to your location if you’re not based in Australia.

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