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    Signs of Domestic Abuse & Violence

    Signs of Domestic Abuse & Violence 1

    Signs of Domestic Abuse & Violence

    The sad, unfortunate journey to becoming a victim of domestic abuse or violence often starts with small things which develop into big things. At first the events may seem trivial, but they build up into something terrible. The pleasure and enjoyment from living ebbs out of the victim’s life.

    Early Warning Signs

    Circumstances will be different in each relationship, but some early warning signs that it is on the road to being unhealthy is when one partner:

    • Has bad butterflies, that dreaded feeling or headaches much of the time;
    • Stops eating or sleeping properly;
    • Stays in more often and sees less of family and friends to avoid arguments at home;
    • Gives up having opinions of their own, believing their partner is right about everything;
    • Has a feeling they are ‘walking on eggshells’, worried that certain actions or words will provoke their partner into an outburst; or
    • Feels scared when their partner is angry because it is impossible to predict their behaviour.

    Key things to look out for are when a partner finds they are under pressure to change who they are, or alter their behaviour, because they feel unsafe or are frightened about how their partner will react. From then on things often escalate into more serious forms abuse or violence.

    Unhealthy Relationship

    Signs a relationship has become unhealthy are when the abuser:

    • Makes threats;
    • Constantly criticises their partner;
    • Makes them feel guilty if they don’t spend time with them;
    • Steals from their partner;
    • Hits, slaps or pushes their partner;
    • Ignores their partner’s wishes and makes them do things they don’t want to, such as have sex;
    • Cheats on their partner or accuses them of cheating.

    Delving more deeply into the signs of an unhealthy relationship, we have outlined some of the ways perpetrators behave to gain control below:

    Destructive Criticism & Verbal Abuse
    Shouting, mocking, name calling, being insulting, falsely accusing a partner of wrong doing or being verbally threatening, perhaps leading to the partner becoming a lot more critical of themselves, thinking they are overweight, behaving in silly ways, being unsure of their own judgment, or believing they are lucky to have a partner, without whom they could not cope.
    Showing Disrespect

    Putting a partner down in front of family, friends or other people; embarrassing a partner in public; not listening or responding when they talk; interrupting their telephone calls; refusing to help with childcare or housework; stealing items or money from them; or damaging their possessions, including heirlooms.

    Pressure Tactics
    Sulking; being jealous and possessive; wanting to know where their partner is all time; threatening to withhold money; getting the partner to buy things for them; telling them what to wear; denying a partner access to a phone, computer, tablet, internet or car; altering the heating controls to uncomfortable levels; taking the children away; lying to a partner’s friends or family about them; forcing a partner to move the relationship further than they want to; or telling them they have no choice in any decisions.

    This can result in the victim avoiding saying things because they are unwilling to risk upsetting their partner, the ‘walking on eggshells’ situation, because they are frightened about how their partner, who may well have Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings, will react.

    Monitoring or blocking phone calls, e-mails and social media accounts; telling a partner when and where they can and cannot go; preventing them from seeing friends and relatives; making no attempt to get on with their partner’s friends or family; or shutting them in the house.

    Breaking trust
    Withholding important information from a partner; lying to them; being jealous; having other relationships; accusing their partner of flirting or having other relationships; or breaking promises and agreements.
    Regularly checking up on their partner, following them; not allowing them privacy by opening their post, going through their laptop, tablet, mobile, emails or social media accounts; constantly checking to see who has called them; or accompanying them everywhere they go.

    Making angry gestures; using physical size to intimidate; shouting their partner down; using violent language; threatening to destroy a partner’s possessions; threatening to report them to the police, social services or the mental health team unless they comply with the perpetrator’s demands; pressurising a partner to use illegal substances; threatening to withhold medicines from a partner; threatening self-harm or suicide; deliberately scaring their partner; wielding a knife or gun; or threatening to kill or harm their partner, the children and/or family pets.

    Sexual Violence

    Forcing a partner to look at pornographic material; forcing them to perform sexual acts they do not wish to; forcing them to have sex when they don’t want it; or forcing them to have sex with other people.

    Physical Violence
    Any combination of restraint, hitting, pushing, shoving, pinching, slapping, punching, kicking, biting, pulling hair out, burning, holding by the neck or strangling.
    All too often the perpetrator says the abuse isn’t happening, or their partner caused it by their so-called provocations. The perpetrator will often say they can’t control their anger, and then appear to be gentle and patient in public. They may cry and beg for forgiveness, saying the abuse or violent outburst will never happen again. But it does.

    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.”