Domestic violence

Specialty of Psychology

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is violence, physical abuse or other abuse in a domestic environment, for example from a partner or within a marriage. It can also be named domestic abuse or family violence, as it can affect not just romantic partners, but other members of the family, such as children, parents, or elderly members. Domestic violence may present as controlling or coercive behaviour, as threats, or as violence and abuse. Both men and women can experience domestic violence, though statistically women are overwhelmingly affected.

Domestic violence can include (though it is not limited to):

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Online abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Controlling and threatening behaviour
  • Forced marriage and honour crimes
  • Genital mutilation

Domestic violence can be performed by multiple members of the family and is not limited to one sole perpetrator. Anybody can experience domestic violence, regardless of gender, age, religion, race, or sexuality.

Signs of domestic abuse

While there are many different kinds of abuse, generally the perpetrator wants to hold power over the victim.

You may want to ask yourself:

  • Do I feel afraid of my family member or partner most of the time?
  • Do I avoid certain topics in case I anger them?
  • Do I have the feeling I can never do anything right?
  • Do I question if I deserve to be mistreated?

If your family member or partner behaves in the following ways, it may be a sign of an abusive relationship:

  • Having an unpredictable temper which may flare for no reason
  • Criticising you frequently
  • Treating you badly in front of your friends or other family members
  • Ignoring you and your accomplishments
  • Treating you as a sexual object
  • Forcing you to have sex
  • Destroying your possessions
  • Forbidding you or advising you not to go to certain places
  • Controlling where you go or what you do
  • Checking up on you constantly throughout the day
  • Limiting your access to money or certain possessions (e.g a phone)

Just because there is no violence involved does not mean there is no abuse going on. Domestic abuse does not have to be physical.

Signs of domestic violence in others

It can be difficult to tell what is going on in other people’s relationships, but it is important to take signs of abuse seriously and watch out for them in order to speak to the victim.

Signs include constantly trying to please their partner or family member, having frequent ‘injuries’ which are often passed off as accidents, frequently missing work, school, or social occasions, having to check in with their partner often throughout the day, or receiving frequent harassing calls. They may have very low self-esteem, or their personality itself may be affected – for example, someone once outgoing may suddenly seem shy and withdrawn, or this may happen over time.

If you suspect that someone is going through domestic violence, speak to them in private. Tell them that you are concerned and assure them you will be there to support them should they ever need help or if they need to talk. Offering them a lifeline can often be the first step towards getting out of an abusive relationship.

Coping with domestic violence

If you experience domestic violence, it is important to get the help and support you need – and remember that you are not alone. Speak to your GP, healthcare provider, or health visitor. You can also get help from a charity or organisation, inform the police of harassment or illegal behaviour, and reach out to a friend or family member. Citizens’ Advice have an extensive guide of helplines and charities which are able to help in times of need.

The after-effects of domestic violence can be difficult to deal with and it can help to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist to speak about any trauma carried over or emotions you are finding difficult to deal with.

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