Domestic Abuse: How To Help Victims
Leading charity Woman’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 a family member or carer.
In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men. Although less common, men can also experience domestic abuse. The Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 757,000 men) for the 12 month period up to March 2020.
Domestic violence is a real problem and something that is extremely hard to monitor. Often, victims can find themselves denying and hiding the fact that they are experiencing domestic abuse to others due to fear of their abuser. They can also be made to feel that what they are experiencing is normal, often making them feel like they do not have a voice or a right to speak out.
Recognising domestic abuse
Although every situation is unique and there are different kinds of abuse, it’s always about having power and control over another person. Domestic abuse usually starts with unhealthy controlling behaviours.
There are common factors that mark an abusive relationship. Victims won’t experience all of these, but they are all signs of domestic abuse:
- Monitoring – being followed or checked-up on, not allowing you any privacy (e.g. going through personal devices such as laptop, tablet or mobile).
- Isolation – blocking phone calls and messages on social media as well as preventing you from seeing family and friends.
- Disrespect – persistently being put down and made to feel worthless, not listening or responding when you talk, refusing to help with housework or childcare, being accused of things you haven’t done and blamed for things that aren’t your fault.
- Breaking trust – withholding information or lying.
- Threats – using physical size to intimidate, making angry gestures, threatening to report you to the police unless you comply, threatening self-harm or suicide, threatening to kill or harm you.
- Pressure tactics – disconnecting the phone or WiFi, confiscating or breaking technology (e.g. mobile phone or laptop), taking the car, withholding or pressuring you to use drugs or other substances.
- Verbal abuse – mocking, shouting, accusing, name calling and destructive criticism.
- Physical violence – punching, slapping, biting, pinching, kicking, pushing, burning, strangling and restraining.
- Sexual violence – constant pressure and harassment into having sex when you don’t want to, forced to have sex, forced to look at pornographic material.
- Denial – saying the abuse doesn’t happen or that it’s your fault.
Where to get help
You don’t need to wait for an emergency situation to find help. If you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse, there are many different organisations which can help you.
National Domestic Abuse helpline
This is a freephone 24 hour helpline run by Refuge. It provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation.
Phone: 0808 2000 247
Refuge website: www.refuge.org.uk
The website provides a wide range of resources to help women and young people including The Survivor’s Handbook and a survivor’s forum.
Men’s Advice Line
This is a confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence. They provide emotional support and practical advice as well as providing details of specialist services.
Phone: 0808 8010 327 (Mon & Weds 9am – 8pm; Tues, Thurs & Fri 9am – 5pm)
National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline
Run by Galop, this helpline provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.
Phone: 0800 999 5428 (Mon, Tues & Fri 10am – 5pm; Weds & Thurs 10am – 8pm)
Safety planning tips
Below is some basic advice and safety planning tips for individuals experiencing domestic abuse:
- Keep your phone charged and with you at all times – you never know when you might need to contact someone. It’s also a good idea to memorise important numbers in case you don’t have access to your mobile.
- Have a safe word/phrase – In violent situations, you may not be able to say very much in person or by text message. Have an agreed safe word with a trusted family member or friend as a code for being in trouble and needing help. Make sure this person is with their phone regularly and on standby to call for help. Keep it short and simple.
- Prepare an emergency bag – Gather important documents, keys, essential clothing and other items such as toiletries and some cash. Keep it in a safe place or with a trusted person.
- Always have an audience – Try to be in the presence of people as much as you can to limit alone time with your abuser. At best, being in other people’s company will keep the violence in check. At worst, if a violent situation did occur, you will have other people to intervene or act as witnesses.
- Vary your routines – Consider changing your timings or routes when leaving home or work so that you are not predictable.
Report domestic abuse
The police take domestic violence seriously and will be able to help protect you. If it’s not an emergency, contact your local neighbourhood policing team.
However, if it is an emergency and you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you’re unable to talk (and calling from a mobile), press 55 to Make Yourself Heard and use the Silent Solution – this will transfer your call to the police.
When transferred to your local police force, the police call handler will attempt to communicate with you by asking simple yes or no questions. If you are not able to speak, listen carefully to the questions and instructions from the call handler so they can assess your call and arrange help if needed.
If things get bad you may need a more reliable, controlled system in place
Domestic violence victims can often be very vulnerable and it is therefore important that they have a security mechanism in place to protect themselves from dangerous situations. Protecting these victims requires instant and regular use of resources which can be very expensive.
In addition, our personal safety solutions are used and trusted by over half the police forces to protect the most vulnerable people in society. Using dedicated personal safety devices or apps victims can call for help at any time, wherever they are.
After an alarm signal has been sent, Peoplesafe Controllers can monitor the calls at the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), listen in and send out emergency help if needed. The GPS tracking feature allows Controllers to see the victim’s exact location and if they feel help is required they are able to contact the emergency services closest to the victim’s location.
We are committed to putting people at the heart of safety. If you are interested in our personal safety alarms, speak to your local police constabulary, or contact us if you would like to find out more.