Domestic violence, often referred to as domestic abuse, is defined as behaviour or patterns of behaviour intended to control, intimidate or harm a romantic partner.
This abuse can take many different forms, such as physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual, and usually escalates in severity over time without early intervention.
It’s important to remember that anyone can be a victim of domestic violence – regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or social class. In fact, the 2020 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 2.3 million adults were affected by domestic violence last year alone, with male abuse victims accounting for nearly 33% of the overall figure.
Domestic Violence: The Signs
Recognising the signs of domestic abuse is not always easy. Some people may become withdrawn from their friends, families or hobbies while others may appear overly anxious to please their partner.
Whether you’re worried about your own relationship or concerned for someone you know, it’s vital to understand the various forms domestic abuse can take so that the signs can be spotted before the situation escalates. This includes:
Physical Abuse – Physical abuse within a relationship consists of any threat or physical act of violence against a partner, be it kicking, punching, slapping, dragging or otherwise. Physical abuse also includes the use of weapons such as knives or household objects, damage to personal property, entrapment and forced sexual interactions. If a person denies their partner access to medical care, this is also considered an act of physical violence.
Psychological & Emotional Abuse – As we’ve already touched upon, domestic violence isn’t limited to acts of physical violence. It can also take the form of psychological and emotional abuse, involving name calling and insults, shouting, possessiveness or controlling behaviour, enforced isolation, humiliation and threats of self-harm or suicide as a way of coercing a partner to stay in the relationship.
Financial Abuse – Another prominent form of domestic violence is financial abuse, in which a person will withhold or control access to their partner’s personal funds or forbid their partner from working to create a sense of dependency. Financial abuse often happens alongside other forms of mistreatment, and makes it extremely difficult for the victim to leave an unsafe environment as they simply don’t have the funds to do so.
Sexual Abuse – Physical intimacy is an important part of every relationship, but abusive partners will often subvert this intimacy as a means of coercive control. This may present itself as demanding or guilting a partner to participate in non-consensual sex, using restraint during sex without your partner’s permission or making sexual insults to damage a partner’s confidence.
Where to Turn for Help
If you’re experiencing abuse of any kind in your relationship, one of the first steps you should take is to talk to someone you trust. Whether that’s a friend, family member, manager or doctor, it’s important to understand that you don’t have to face this alone.
Support for women: The National Domestic Abuse Helpline (0808 2000 247), run by Refuge, is a free 24/7 support line offering confidential advice to any woman in need of assistance with a domestic violence issue.
Support for men: The Men’s Advice Line (0808 8010 327) provides non-judgemental information to men experiencing domestic abuse and is available on Monday and Wednesday from 9am to 8pm, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Support for members of the LGBTQ+ community: If you identify as LGBTQ+ and are facing abuse in your relationship, you can call Galop (0800 999 5428) for emotional and practical support between 10am and 5pm from Monday to Friday, and 10am to 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
App-based support: Bright Sky is a free to download mobile app for anyone who may be experiencing domestic abuse. The app is confidential, does not require your name or details, and provides the user with advice, guidance and access to relevant support services.
Concerned About a Friend or Colleague?
If you’re worried that someone you know is experiencing domestic violence in their relationship, you should encourage them to seek support through a confidential phone service or with a licensed professional.
If it’s a colleague you’re concerned about, you can reassure them that approaching your organisation’s mental health first aider or HR department is a great way to begin talking through their issues and receive signposting to further support sources.
Perhaps most importantly, you should listen without judgement when someone confides in you about domestic violence. Don’t force them to take immediate action or leave the relationship, but rather help them access available support systems and let them know that they are not alone – and not to blame.
Does your employer offer the Vivup Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as a staff benefit? If so, you can contact the 24-hour telephone helpline for responsive, confidential and totally independent advice should you or a colleague need support.
In an emergency situation, always call the police on 999.