A lot of people think they know what domestic abuse is. One image usually comes to mind: a husband hitting his wife. Though this is a common form of domestic abuse, and absolutely one of the most dangerous, this social problem isn’t limited to that scenario.
Domestic abuse can take so many forms. It can often be difficult for people on the outside looking in to understand that domestic abuse is even taking place. In fact, there are many victims out there who may not realize they are suffering domestic abuse. It can actually go further: the people committing the crime may not be fully aware they’re doing it. They may not understand the gravity of what they’re doing. (Of course, this doesn’t really wash when the issue at hand is physical violence.)
People will continue to stay with abusive partners for many reasons. It’s important that we try to understand that someone may do this. Specific reasons aren’t necessary; our focus should be one helping them. Them staying with an abusive partner doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best to reach out to them. Let’s try taking a closer look at domestic abuse. By gaining a better understanding, we’ll be in a better position to help others. Or help ourselves should we find ourselves with an abusive partner.
Defining domestic abuse
Domestic, of course, refers to the home. But it’s also used in a more abstract way to encompass family relations. The term abuse is something that’s more frequently understood. People hear the word and assume they know what it refers to. They think about physical things, be it physical violence or sexual abuse. But this doesn’t fully define what abuse is.
Abuse is using something for a bad purpose. What we call “bad” would be relative to general social morality. Think about the term “drug abuse”. We’re using the item - the drug - for malign, harmful purposes. We’re going too far. (Of course, in the instance of drug abuse, the person is abusing themselves with drugs.)
That’s what we’re talking about here. We need to remember that abuse is more a general term than people often think; it refers to malign and harmful behavior. This, of course, isn’t always physically violent in nature. Once you realize this, you’ll see that it can indeed take on many different forms. Ultimately, domestic abuse in all its form is about control. It’s behavior that demoralizes a person in order to control them.
This is the instance that people think about most of the time. But, again, they usually just have one image when they think about the subject. They think about very obvious, full-force violence. They think about a man standing over a felled woman, having just hit her with a closed fist. But domestic violence not only occurs towards both sexes (although women make up the vast majority of victims). It also occurs within varying degrees of violence.
Any form of physical violence used against a domestic partner is domestic violence. This can include things like pinching or even biting. This isn’t the sort of behavior that people will often think about. They see things like that as less harmful than a full-force punch and so often discount them. But a lot of domestic violence occurs through these more “subtle” methods. And it’s precisely because they’re harder to spot and not often thought about that leads abusers to use them.
In addition to direct physical violence, there are also indirect kinds. This sees the abuser withholding access to anything that their partner needs in order to maintain their health. This can include medication and movement assistance. But it can even include basics like sleep, food, or drink.
A cycle of domestic violence can be very difficult to escape from. But whatever the specific issue, people should know that there is help available. Victims are able to find refuge and legal help if need be.
It’s time to look at some of the other forms of domestic abuse. The next on the list is verbal domestic abuse. This is one that many will be more familiar with than the next ones on the list. Though it doesn’t get much of the attention that domestic violence gets, it is something most people do acknowledge as a form of domestic abuse.
Still, it’s not often seen as “severe” as domestic violence. This is an understable viewpoint, given the physical harm involved in the latter. But it’s important we don’t try to place these things in some sort of hierarchy. This will simply lead people to more easily brush off other forms of abuse.
Verbal abuse, like physical violence, takes many forms. People will often think about extreme scenarios. They’ll think about people yelling horrifying profanities at their partner at bone-shaking volumes. But it can be a lot more subtle than that. Any type of malicious name-calling - no matter the volume - should never be acceptable. If it happens on a frequent basis, then the aim of the person doing it is probably to put their partner down.
Verbals abuse doesn’t even have to be as on-the-nose as name-calling or swearing. If you think about it, it can be quite easy to mask insults as “constructive criticism”. Employing this on a frequent basis is a common verbal abuse “technique”. Of course, there’s nothing truly constructive about such repeated criticisms. They’re destructive, not constructive. That’s the point. Threats, unjustified blame, and shaming vocabulary also fall into this category. It’s important that people try to understand the signs that they are being verbally abused.
Social abuse is something that people rarely think about when we explore this subject. It’s definitely a lot more subtle that physical violence or verbal abuse. Still, it’s something that can have profound psychological effects on the abused. It makes them feel alone, isolated, and often as though their partner is the only person they can depend on. Again, this is the point. Remember that this is all about control.
If you’re being discouraged to stop seeing other people, then you need to know the specific reasons. It could be that your partner is genuinely worried about the consequences of you hanging around with particular types of people. But there’s discouraging while allowing someone to make their own decisions. And then there’s punishing someone in any way for not complying. Someone trying to prevent their partner seeing friends and family is attempting to isolate that person. This is social abuse.
One form of social abuse also takes the form of false accusations. People are very willing to believe the victim when it comes to accusations of domestic abuse. Someone may make a false accusation of domestic violence against a partner in order to have them ostracized. It may seem strange that an issue we mentioned earlier can be used against someone in such a way, but it’s been known to happen. If someone is falsely accused of this, they too can turn to domestic violence lawyers to receive help. This is particularly important, given the number of false reports being higher than many people believe.
If someone you know hasn't been interacting with others since they’ve been with their partner? Don’t just assume they’re just too distracted by each other to see others. Make it a point to reach out to them. If they keep saying they can’t see people, or don’t want to, or seem to have low self-esteem, or are withdrawn? It could be that they’re depressed. It’s possible that social abuse is taking place.
Financial or economic abuse
This is one of the most misunderstood forms of domestic abuse. Again, it all boils down to control. This time, it takes the form of financial or economic control. This can take shape in a lot of ways.
Such relationships may see a partner being forced to take career paths that they don’t really want. An abuser may want to prevent their partner from being more successful than them, or to even earn a decent wage. This keeps the partner, in their eyes, dependent. Sometimes, the “career” may actually be no career at all. They may be forced to stay at home, sometimes under the guise of being a “stay at home mom”.
It can also take the form of a partner tracking every penny Everything must be accounted for. This usually ties in with other forms of abuse. If financial habits aren’t seen as up to scratch, then the victim may suffer physical violence or verbal abuse. Such control can be taken further by not allowing the partner to have their own bank account. All the money comes and goes from and through one source: the abuser.
Things can get even more complex in this area of abuse. Once someone’s become financially dependent on their abuser, a further form of financial abuse can take place. This takes the form of persistent threats to leave if the victim doesn’t do what they’re told.
Learning how to hide money from an abusive partner could be essential in such a scenario. Aside from that, the usual channels of refuge should be taken. Remember: help isn’t limited to people who are suffering from physical violence. Whatever the form of abuse, there’s help out there.