Trigger warning: abuse.
Domestic abuse is a serious and pervasive issue affecting millions of women of all ages and walks of life.
During their lifetime, 4 in 10 US women will experience psychological abuse by an intimate partner, and 1 in 4 will experience domestic violence. In the UK, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic abuse.
While abuse can happen in all relationships, in 76% of cases it occurs between women and men, with men as the abusers and women the victims.
Abuse can take on many different forms, often making it hard to clearly define what’s going on. In this blog we’ll take you through some of the warning signs that might help you to identify if you, or someone you know, is experiencing abuse.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is when someone close to you shows controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and even violent behavior. This can show up emotionally, sexually, and physically with your partners.
What are the telltale signs of abuse?
Though some abuse is physical and often violent, there are other types of abuse that might be less obvious. However, all abuse has one thing in common: power imbalance.
Hearing berating, hurtful comments like, “you’re so dumb”, “you can’t do anything right”, “nobody likes you” can take a huge toll on our confidence, feelings of security, and the way we see ourselves.
When someone repeatedly uses words to demean, intimidate or control someone, it's considered verbal abuse and is detrimental to the victim’s self-esteem.
Coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse, and it’s not physical. It uses psychological and emotional abuse like name calling, threats, manipulation and blame to control you.
It often presents as a partner who is overly protective, possessive and paranoid of you, constantly accusing you of cheating or lying. However, it’s not always as obvious. Coercive control can be a slow burn, starting with an isolated incident, making it hard to see red flags.
For example, your partner might track you and your social media, follow you and look at your phone without your permission.
They might discourage you from going to work or school, or seeing friends and family under the guise of it being for your own good when actually they are isolating you.
Then, they might try to control how you spend money, the clothes you wear, or where you go, when and with whom.
Long term damage is caused when these incidents and behaviours become a pattern, leading the victim to live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.
Gaslighting also plays a huge role as the abuser convinces their victim that their reality isn’t real, regardless of facts and the victim’s real experiences.
They can minimize what happened, saying things like “you’re overreacting” or “it wasn’t that big of a deal”. These tactics make you doubt everything and everyone, including yourself.
Physical & sexual abuse
Finally, physical abuse is not just hitting, it can be pushing, throwing, pinching, restraining. Whereas sexual abuse can be any sexual act being forced upon you without your consent, not just rape.
Abusers will often convince their victims that they deserved it, that it was their fault and somehow they should feel guilty. On the other hand, they might also apologize and promise to never do it again, creating a vicious cycle for the victim who sees their abuser as truly remorseful time and again.
Domestic abuse has long term effects on the physical, mental and emotional health of victims. It can be hard for victims to regain confidence and reconnect with feelings of pleasure.
If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse, or you’ve just left an abusive relationship, you are not alone. Remember you are not to blame for your abuser’s actions, they are.
In collaboration with LELO, we created the wellbeing collection Healing From Abuse. The collection explores self care techniques for healing from abuse, with practical sessions exploring how to reconnect with yourself and your pleasure. Download the app and listen to the collection free throughout September.