Domestic violence (Domestic Abuse) is an abuse of power, where one person in a relationship uses a variety of tactics to gain and maintain power and control over the other person.
An abuser will use a variety of tactics, including physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse to maintain control.
Domestic violence is not a single incident, but is a pattern of behaviour which is used to gain and maintain control over the other person, often over a long period of time. Many abusers tactics are subtle and the impacts are sometimes hard to recognise.
Domestic violence takes many forms, including physical violence and coercion, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation and threats of violence.
For most women, sexual abuse and coercive sex are part of the pattern of abuse. Emotional and verbal abuse is often sexualised or focuses on the woman’s ability to be a good mother, wife or sexual partner.
Abuse can happen at the beginning of a relationship or it may start later on, but it usually builds over a period of time as the abuser gains more control and the victim’s autonomy and self esteem is eroded.
YOU MAY BE A VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
- VERBAL ABUSE – includes constant destructive criticism, sneering, mocking, making accusations, insulting and name calling, shouting, threatening.
- THREATS AND PRESSURE – threatening to take the children from you, report you to social workers or get your money stopped, to take your phone or car away, to tell lies about you to your friends and family. Also, telling you that you have no right to make decisions, pressurising you into having sex or doing things that make you uncomfortable, being jealous or accusing you of having affairs, threatening to commit suicide or to kill you or people close to you. Endangering you and your children by driving recklessly.
- CONTEMPT AND DISRESPECT – putting you down in front of other people, ignoring you when you talk, interrupting phone calls, taking money from you without asking, refusing to help with the children or housework, publicly and privately undermining your intelligence and abilities.
- CONFUSING YOU AND BETRAYING TRUST – lying to you, holding information back, having other relationships, breaking promises, telling you he is jealous because you don’t want him and are looking for someone else.
- ISOLATION: stopping you from seeing family and friends, monitoring your phone calls, preventing you from making or taking phone calls, telling you where you can go and when.
- HARASSMENT AND CONTROLLING – deciding where you go and who you talk to, making you account for everything you spend and what you buy including your clothing and personal items, controlling all the household bills and outgoings, giving you too little money for the household, checking your phone for calls in or out, following you, opening your post or e-mails, embarrassing you in public, calling your workplace to check on you.
- INTIMIDATION – intimidating you through using physical strength or size, shouting at you, damaging and breaking your personal possessions, slamming doors and punching walls, breaking furniture, making threatening gestures or brandishing a weapon, driving at you or running you off the road, threatening to kill or harm you, your children or pets.
- DENIAL – saying you caused the abuse, saying it didn’t happen, saying it’s all in your imagination, being gentle and kind in public, begging forgiveness and promising it will never happen again.
- SEXUAL VIOLENCE – using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex, any degrading treatment based on sex, using pornography, telling you he has a right to have sex with you and it is your duty to obey.
- ANY KIND OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE – including punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, hair pulling, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling, stabbing, breaking bones, using weapons –attempted murder.
For some women, the perpetrator’s physical and sexual violence becomes more severe and life threatening as time passes. For others the physical violence may decrease, but the emotional and verbal abuse and intimidation gets worse.
It can be frequent or occasional, and is often unpredictable, so the victim never knows how to avoid being abused.
In common with many other forms of abuse, the perpetrator will work at making the victim think she is responsible for his abuse of her.
Problems of alcohol or drug misuse cannot cause, or justify domestic violence, although their use may make the violence worse.
Often the abuse and violence begins when a woman is pregnant. A study conducted by the Rotunda Maternity Hospital found that 1 in 8 pregnant women surveyed were experiencing domestic violence. In the U.S. a study found that women who are pregnant are twice as likely to be beaten as women who are not.
It is estimated that 213,000 Irish women suffer severe abuse and that 51% of women murdered in Ireland are murdered by their partner or ex-partner.
Domestic violence occurs within relationships regardless of social class, race, religion, cultural identity or education and it occurs in both urban and rural areas.
Domestic violence is not acceptable and should not be tolerated whether the victim is male or female. Every person has the right to live a life free from violence.