Domestic abuse is more than just physically abusing or hurting someone. There are many ways that are now considered to be abuse, and not all of them leave bruises or marks but can still be considered abusive or damaging. You can get support and you can get help and just because someone isn’t hitting or physically hurting you, doesn’t mean what they are doing is wrong and harmful to you or you and your children.
When you exert control over a person, when you break them down to the point where they no longer can manage even simple things without your “help”. When your desire to have that person think and feel the way you want them to, and don’t allow them to have their own thoughts or opinions. When you control who they see, where they go, who they can be friends with, or not. When you try to isolate them from their family, or succeed in doing that. When you control what money they spend, what they do on social media and when you accuse them of things that really you know they didn’t do, but your own insecurities mean that you cannot bear to think that person might leave you or not want to be with you, so you verbally attack them for innocent actions.
When you don’t allow them to use their skills and talents, because they might outshine you or take attention away from you. When you set standards so ridiculously high, that the person simply can never meet them, then you treat them badly because they have “failed”. When you belittle and criticize them, how they look, what they wear, what they eat, their body, their face, and their image. When you speak badly to them in front of other people, or in private, “for their own good”. When you say one thing to them, then say another, when you lie to them, then accuse them of having mental health issues, because you want them to believe they are broken and going mad, and need you around to help them. When you accuse them of lying or of being mentally unwell, when you tell them they are useless, and a failure, so constantly they come to believe and accept that. When you tell them no one else will love them, and they are lucky to have you. When you break them down.
This is mental abuse and it happens, as part of domestic violence, one person to another, or on it’s own.
Here are some other ways to define abuse that isn’t physical:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse .
- Physical or sexual abuse.
- Financial or economic abuse.
- Harassment and stalking.
- Online or digital abuse.
It doesn’t leave bruises, or marks. It doesn’t leave evidence that can be shown to a policeman, or a friend who might be worried about you. It isn’t always obvious. An abuser can be charming, witty, gregarious, good with people, and seem like an amazing person, to everyone else, but the one in their life that lives in fear of what will come out of their mouth, aimed at just them.
Someone who is verbally abused will be anxious, broken, damaged, scared, and may have been totally isolated from those who love them, by their abuser.
Just because it’s just words, doesn’t mean it’s not abuse. It is not acceptable to hurt a person, to destroy their confidence and their mind. Just because you aren’t hitting them, and leaving bruises and marks, doesn’t mean that it’s not abuse.
Domestic violence and abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men, in their lifetime. That’s a shocking statistic. You may not realize that the person you have coffee with, your colleague, a teacher in your school, the lady who serves you tea, the mum who always seems to never want to talk at the school gate, the friend who suddenly doesn’t seem to be able to spend time with you any more… You can’t see bruises, or broken bones, or marks, but they might be being emotionally battered and abused. If they come to you and tell you they need help, you need to listen and you can support them, even if they can’t show you physical evidence.
When people think of domestic violence, they think of someone being physically hurt, actually injured. Mental abuse is also common and you do not have to suffer in silence. You are not alone, and you can get help. Recent legal changes in the UK mean that emotional mistreatment is now taken more seriously and you can reach out and there are people who will help you and your perpetrator can be prosecuted, even if they have never physically harmed you. If someone you live with, have a relationship with, or who is in your life, is mentally abusing you, it is domestic abuse. It’s not normal, or “just how things are”. You do not deserve it, and they will not stop.
Just because it doesn’t leave bruises or marks that can be seen, doesn’t mean that what is happening, isn’t wrong, it’s abuse.
You can get help, information and advice here and here
I currently work with families struggling with domestic abuse, I have witnessed the mental and verbal abuse of people that I know, some that I love. The chain of abuse must be broken. This blog post is long overdue. I cannot and will not stand by. I will fight for those who are being abused and broken. I have sat by and tried not to see, or told myself that I am not the person who can help, or that there are far better qualified people out there who can make more of a difference. That isn’t true. Anyone and everyone can stand up and say they will not tolerate the abuse of someone they know or love.