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What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in any type of relationship and can continue even after the relationship has ended. It isn’t just physical violence, domestic abuse includes emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse. It doesn't matter what your age, race, gender or sexuality is, anyone can be affected.

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as "an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men". It is therefore a sex-based crime, in that it disproportionately affects more women than men, rooted in the societal inequalities that still exist. Women more likely to experience multiple incidents of abuse, different types of domestic abuse, (such as intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking), as well as sexual violence. Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, class, or disability.

The terms domestic abuse and domestic violence are often used interchangeably, although they do sometimes refer to different things. Broadly, violence refers to physical harm, while abuse tends to encompass that along with things like financial and emotional abuse, such as control and coercion

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Domestic Abuse Statistics

Incidents of domestic abuse are notoriously hard to measure accurately, as the problem is much bigger than official statistics show. Many victims and children don’t tell anyone about the abuse, and they are often un-reported and therefore not recorded as crimes. In the last year an estimated two million people in England and Wales experienced a form of domestic abuse, from violence to emotional and financial abuse, two thirds of whom are women, which equates to 1.3 million.
Each year more than 100,000 people in the UK are at high and imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse, with women being much more likely than men to be the victims of high risk or severe domestic abuse. Seven women a month are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. It is estimated many more take their own lives as a result of domestic abuse: every day almost 30 women attempt suicide as a result of experiencing domestic abuse and every week three women take their own lives

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Types of Domestic Abuse

There are different kinds of abuse, but it's always about having power and control over you. Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to, the following:
  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse and rape (including within a relationship)
  • Financial or economic abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Honour-based violence
  • Forced marriage
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Online or digital abuse

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    Physical abuse

    Physical abuse (violence) includes pushing, hitting, punching, kicking, choking and using weapons.

    Verbal abuse

    Verbal abuse is the use of harsh or insulting, degrading language. You might be called names or constantly put down by your partner.

    Emotional abuse

    Emotional abuse or coercive control is the act of repeatedly making someone feel bad, intimidated or scared. This can include threatening or controlling behaviour, such as controlling or withholding finances, blackmailing, constantly criticising or checking up on someone, or playing mind games. Coercive control is now a criminal offence under the Serious Crime Act 2015.

    Psychological abuse

    Psychological or mental abuse is when someone is subjected or exposed to a situation that can result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Sexual abuse

    Sexual abuse is when you’re forced or pressured to have sex without your consent (rape), unwanted sexual activity, touching, groping or being made to watch pornography, or forced to participate in derogatory acts.

    Effects of Domestic Abuse

    Domestic abuse can have a significant impact on your emotional wellbeing, as well as sometimes affecting other relationships and your ability to live your life as you’d want to.

    Everyone reacts differently but some of the effects of domestic abuse include:
  • depression, loneliness and isolation
  • fear, anxiety and panic attacks
  • a lack of confidence or low self-esteem
  • feelings of guilt, shame or self-blame
  • experiencing difficulties at work or in your other relationships
  • trouble sleeping and appetite changes
  • physical health problems

    It’s important to remember that all of these reactions are normal, there is no 'normal' reaction to domestic abuse. Abuse is never your fault, only your abuser is to blame for their behaviour.
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    Domestic Abuse and Children

    Witnessing domestic abuse is really distressing and scary for a child, and causes serious harm. Children living in a home where domestic abuse is happening are at risk of other types of abuse too. Children can experience domestic abuse or violence in lots of different ways. They might:
  • see the abuse
  • hear the abuse from another room
  • see a parent's injuries or distress afterwards
  • be hurt by being nearby or trying to stop the abuse

    Living with domestic abuse can have a significant impact on a child's development, health and well-being and can also damage the relationship that the child has with their abused parent.
  • Parents who are experiencing domestic abuse may struggle to meet their child's needs.
  • They may also underestimate the impact of the abuse on their children.
  • The child may think that the parent should have been able to prevent the abuse.
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    You are not alone, there is help

    Please don't wait for an emergency situation to seek help. If domestic abuse is happening to you, or someone you know, it's important to tell someone and remember you're not alone. If you are not in immediate risk and would like to talk or seek advice, you can contact any of the organisations below, or call the drop-in at My Sisters House CIC Women's Centre (Please note, we are not an emergency service.)

  • In an emergency or you feel at immediate risk always dial 999

  • WORTH - an Independent Domestic Abuse service supporting those in West Sussex.

  • National Centre Domestic Violence - a freephone 24-hour helpline

  • Women's Aid - organisation run by women for abused women and their children. The Survivor's Handbook, available on their website is free, and provides information for women on a wide range of issues, such as housing, money, helping your children, and your legal rights.

  • Safe in Sussex - a charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse.

  • For forced marriage and "honour" crimes, contact Karma Nirvana (0800 5999 247) or The Forced Marriage Unit (020 7008 0151).

  • Galop provides support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.

  • Anyone who needs confidential help with their own abusive behaviour can contact Respect on their free helpline on 0808 802 4040.

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  • Accredited Voluntary Register

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