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    Spot The Warning Signs of an Abusive Partner

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    Spot The Warning Signs of an Abusive Partner


    Disclaimer – For the purposes of this particular blog and the references to The Freedom Programme, I will refer to women as the victim and men as the perpetrator.

    If we have been in an abusive relationship, we may feel that we would know the warning signs straight away, if a new partner was also abusive.  But everyone is different, and we may not know!  For example, if our previous relationship was categorized by physical abuse, we may not recognise the signs of a coercively controlling person, and vice versa.

    Some of the women who have completed my Freedom Programmes have told me that when they met a new partner, they went to the police station and asked to make a Claire’s Law application.  This can be a good way of finding out if your new boyfriend/girlfriend has ever been reported to the police for abusive behaviour.  It may also be easier to end a relationship early on if we have the knowledge of previous abusive behaviour, rather than later on, when we will of invested more into the relationship.

    However, it is important to note that we know that many women never report the abuse to the Police or any other organisation.  That being the case, a Claire’s Law application would come back clear!  So let’s take a look below at some early warning signs you may see in ‘The Dominator’s’ persona.

    Early Bully

    He may go quiet for a while if we disagree with something he says or does.  He may use the body language of The Bully.  Watch out for tapping fingers, folded arms and swinging feet!  He may tell us very early on in the relationship that he would never hit a woman.  Ask yourself – why would he need to tell us this at all?

    Early Jailer

    This is a difficult one to see unless you have done The Freedom Programme or read the book ‘Living with the Dominator’.  A lot of the warning signs for the Jailor may be seen as being romantic or loving.  We may feel that he is just so in love with us, he can’t bear us to be apart.  For example, we may say we are going to see a friend and he may insist that he drops us off and picks us up.  He may genuinely be trying to be helpful and caring.  BUT he may be making sure we are going where we say we are and that there is not a man there!  He will say he doesn’t want us to work because “you don’t have to.  I will provide for you”.  He may want to see us every day and come round at times when we are not expecting him.

    Early Headworker

    The Headworker is coercively controlling.  So subtle that it is difficult to see it until it is too late!  He may put us down in front of other people but will always use humour to do it.  He may make insulting comments about our appearance under the guise of a compliment.  For example – “You would look so much prettier if you lost a little weight”!  He may make sexist, racist or homophobic jokes.

    Early Persuader

    He could make us feel sorry for him.  He will try to persuade us to do something he knows we don’t like and don’t want to do.  He could buy food that he knows we don’t like and try to persuade us to eat it.  He may say he would kill himself rather than not be in a relationship with us!

    Early Liar

    He may tell us his previous partner was a bitch and will now not let him see his children.  *Warning – if someone tells you they have children but they aren’t allowed to see them, there is usually a very good reason why!!*  He will use minimisation and use the only word.  For example he may say something hurtful to us then say “It was only a joke!” or “I did hit her once but it was only a slap and it was her fault because she was drunk!”

    Early Badfather

    As mentioned above, the Badfather may not have contact with his own children.  He may be overly attentive and friendly with our children, buying them presents and treats.  He may, very quickly, make himself indispensable.  He may provide us with financial support and practical help.  This is very hard to resist if we have been struggling to manage time and/or finances on our own.  But equally as quickly, he may start dispensing discipline.  He may tell our children off or take things from them if they are naughty.

    Early King of the Castle

    He may start leaving his clothes and other belonging at our house.  He will begin to choose our clothes but in very subtle way.  For example, he may say “You look lovely in that dress but don’t you think it would look even more lovely if it was a little bit longer?”  He may offer to do household chores for us but do them so badly that we don’t actually want him to do them, so we do them ourselves.

    Early Sexual Controller

    He will want to have sex very early on in the relationship and get upset or sulk if you say No.  When you do have sex with him, he may only have regard in satisfying himself and not care about how you feel.  He won’t communicate with you whilst having sex.  He refuses to wear a condom.

    These warning signs will not be obvious or happen all at once.  They will come in clusters.  They will present themselves, several at a time.  You may not be sure how you feel about it.  You may feel uncomfortable and choose to ignore your uneasiness.  However, women who have done the Freedom Programme have said that after doing the programme, they take these uneasy feelings much more seriously.

    Good luck!  Trust your instincts and remember – not everyone is abusive!

    Sharon Bryan
    Head Of Partnerships & Development Of Domestic Abuse Services

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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.”