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    ISOLATION TACTICS – How victims of Domestic Abuse fall into the trap

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    ISOLATION TACTICS – How victims of Domestic Abuse fall into the trap


    At the start of a controlling relationship, isolation tactics are so sugar-coated we might not recognise them for what they are. Someone wants to spend all their time with us because they are so crazy about us. How flattering! And we might be happy to give them all of our time. To some extent this is normal. Most of us are guilty of prioritising something new and exciting, but once the initial excitement wears off, we pick up where we left off with friends, family and hobbies. When a relationship is becoming controlling, however, it’s not always easy to get away.

    Dedicating all our time to a new partner can quickly become a routine, and a routine sets up an expectation that this is how things are going to be.

    “Oh, you’re going to yoga again? I was going to cook us a romantic meal.”

    “What do you mean, you’re going out on Friday? I’ve bought tickets for the movie you wanted to see.”

    “I really want to see you tonight. I can’t go a whole day without seeing you. I love you so much”

    “I know you want to see your parents this weekend, but I promised your kids we’ll go to the zoo. I was just trying to do something nice.”

    And we feel obligated because they are clearly madly in love with us. It can even feel endearing. Maybe we’ll give it a miss this time, next week, perhaps…

    This can become so entrenched that we end up having no time to ourselves and our whole life becomes consumed by our partner’s needs. Hobbies and interests go, friends are neglected, and that evening class we enrolled in is abandoned – and we don’t see it coming or understand how we got here. When victims of abuse and control finally seek help they often use the words, “I used to have a life.”

    Controlling partners can make it difficult to get out of the house. They need to use the car or are unable to look after the children, or they create some kind of drama or illness when we have something else planned. They often dislike or fall out with our friends or family so we feel like we have to choose between them, or reduce the amount of time we spend with others.

    Over time, isolation tactics become less sugar-coated and more toxic:

    Where have you been?

    Who were you talking to?

    Why didn’t you answer your phone?

    Why were you flirting?

    Why are you wearing that?

    Who are you texting?

    Who is that letter from?

    What are you hiding?

    Later on, these stop being questions and become threats and demands.

    Do NOT leave this house.

    Do NOT use your phone.

    Do NOT use social media.

    Do NOT contact your family.

    Do NOT talk to other people.

    Why does it Happen?

     Isolation is perhaps the most effective tactic an abuser can use. If they can put a barrier between us and the rest of the world, there are many benefits in it for them:

    It is easier to control us simply because they have constant access to us.

    As we become more and more isolated, we become solely dependent on them for companionship and sharing problems.

    Manipulating us is easier because there is no one to put another point of view.

    There is less likelihood of someone interfering or calling out the abuser on their behaviour.

    Injuries are easier to hide. Sadness is easier to hide.

    Their jealousy and possessiveness is eased because we are not going out and meeting people they perceive as a threat.

    We have fewer people to talk to so the risk of disclosing to anyone what is happening is reduced.

    The impact of isolation involves:


    A drop in confidence and self-esteem

    Depression and anxiety

    Lost opportunities

    No one to talk to or to ask for help

    Limited scope for children to socialise

    What started as an exciting and romantic relationship now feels like a prison. The flattery and attention has disappeared and we feel controlled and manipulated.

    In a healthy relationship, both parties should have space to pursue interests outside of the home, and a nurturing partner supports and encourages this, even if they miss us when we’re away. It is possible to be an individual and a loving partner.

    Controlling behaviours rarely just stop but tend to get worse over time. You don’t have to be hit or hurt. If you need help please break the silence and talk to someone you trust. If you need us, NCDV can help you take out a legal court order to protect you from further harm. You can find other forms of support on our resources page by following the link below:

    Charlotte Woodward

    National Training Manager

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”