Any kind of abuse can have serious and long-lasting effects, yet it can be difficult to identify. Emotional abuse in particular tends to be minimised and denied, but it can just as harmful as physical and sexual abuse – the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”, just isn’t always true. Another reason why abuse is hard to identify is that those who suffer the abuse often blame themselves. I find it poignant that it is particularly common for those abused by a spouse, partner or parent to consider themselves at fault for the abuse – “He wouldn’t hit me if I were a better wife”, for example. And in many cases the abuser openly blames the abused – “Now look what you’ve made me do!” – the abuser passes responsibility for the abuse onto the person being abused.
The Serious Crime Act of 2015 created the new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate family relationship. This new law clarifes what constitutes abuse and gives the implication that police forces across the nation are more aware than ever before of the harmful effects of abuse.
If you think you may currently be suffering abuse, or may have been abused in the past, you can call:
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline
If you’re unsure, the following questions may help you decide:
Do you feel that someone close to you is or has:
- Isolating you from friends and/or family.
- Depriving you of your basic needs.
- Monitoring the ways you spend your time.
- Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware.
- Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what to wear or when you can sleep.
- Depriving you access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services.
- Repeatedly putting you down such as telling you that you are worthless.
- Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise you.
- Forcing you to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities.
- Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing you a very small allowance.
- Controlling your ability to go to school or place of study.
- Taking your wages, benefits or allowances.
- Threats to hurt you or kill you.
- Threats to harm a child.
- Threats to reveal or publish your private information (e.g. threatening to 'out' you).
- Threats to hurt or physically harming a family pet.
- Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods).
- Preventing you from having access to transport or from working.
- Preventing you from being able to attend school, college or University.
- Family 'dishonour'.
- Reputational damage.
- Disclosure of sexual orientation.
- Disclosure of HIV status or other medical condition without consent.
- Limiting your access to family, friends and finances.
If you think the answer to any of these questions might be ‘yes’, then counselling may help you gain clarity around your situation and decide what to do next. If you feel you are unable to see me in person, I can communicate with you via the internet using technology that leaves no record of our conversation.