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Warning signs

Recognising the signs of Domestic Abuse can stop it in its tracks before it has even taken hold. At Stop Domestic Violence Monaco we believe in educating people to take a pro-active approach to Domestic Violence so we can save relationships and even lives.  Domestic Violence often increases in frequency and severity over time and by understanding the early warning signs, a woman can be prepared.

What is Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse occurs when one partner within an intimate or family relationship uses coercive behavior to intimidate, dominate and control the other person.  Domestic abuse can take many different forms including physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

However the abuse manifests, domestic abuse is about power and the abuser’s desire to have and maintain control over their partner or close family member.  Abusers commonly use fear, guilt, shame and intimidation to control their victim and can also threaten and hurt their partner, or those around them.

Whichever form of abusive behavior is used it is never acceptable and all parties to a relationship have the right to feel valued, respected, and most importantly safe. It is important to remember that no one has the right to be violent or abusive towards you and that there are people out there who can help.

Types of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse manifests in many different ways. The following section, whilst not exhaustive, outlines common types of abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can range from minor physical assaults through to violent, targeted and repeated episodes.  Forms of physical abuse include, but are not limited to pushing, punching, hitting, kicking, choking and using weapons or objects to act out violence.  Episodes of physical abuse often grow in frequency and severity over time and so immediate action is required any time you are physically harmed even if it does not result in a bruise or a broken bone.  Any intrusion into your physical space is unacceptable and can quickly escalate leading to disastrous consequences and even death.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Emotional abuse is typically on-going verbal or behavioural abuse of a partner which often accompanies and frequently precedes physical violence.  It is often unrecognized but is equally as harmful as physical violence and can also escalate to physical violence over time.  Indeed, it is an attack on your personality rather than on your body and often affects a victim’s sense of reality and perception of self.  Emotional abuse can include, but is not limited to insults or put downs, threats, humiliation, jealousy, ignoring feelings, isolating a partner from social contact, yelling, blaming a partner for misfortunes or telling a victim about sexual affairs.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is the use of emotional and physical violence in sexual relations.  Types of sexual abuse include rape, forcing sexual contact or intercourse or using sex as a threat or punishment.  It is important to realize that being married or in a relationship does not give an abuser the right to enforce any form of sexual contact onto a spouse or partner. No one should be able to control you by using sex as a weapon.

Financial or Economic Abuse

Financial abuse is a form of control in which an abuser prevents a victim from obtaining access to economic or financial resources. A victim may be kept financially dependent which can result in a complete loss of individual independence and ultimately prevents their ability to make decisions in life.  It is one of the most powerful ways a woman can be abused by their partner.  This abuse can be done by withdrawing financial support, preventing you from working, monitoring how you spend your money or even by putting you at risk by putting all of the bills or debts in your name.

Warning signs of Domestic Abuse

It is impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but if a woman is being controlled or forced to change her behavior for any reason because she is afraid of her partner, then she is being abused.  If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member or co-worker, take them very seriously.  By picking up on the warning signs and offering support you can help them escape an abusive or potentially abusive situation

General Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness

Warning Signs of Physical Violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of ‘accidents’
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)

Warning Signs of Psychological Abuse

People who are being emotionally abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becoming withdrawn)
  • Be depressed, anxious or suicidal
  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner

Warning Signs of Financial Abuse

People who are being financially abused may:

Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car

What to do if you are worried someone may be being abused

Watching someone being abused is difficult for anyone particularly if it is someone close to you, but it is very important to open a dialogue with her without scaring her away.  You need to create a safe environment where she will feel safe enough to discuss her situation without being judged.

Remember that her partner may be monitoring her telephone, emails and social media accounts and so it is always better to discuss these matters in person.

Women who are being abused are very often uncomfortable to speak openly about their situation as they often feel a conflict of emotions, ranging from fear and powerlessness to isolation and shame.  They may be trying to make sense of their situation themselves and may not be ready to admit what is happening to them.

Start by telling her how worried you are about her but don’t expect her to admit anything straight away.  You may need to have this conversation several times before she feels comfortable enough to discuss her situation openly.

Abusers often use blame as a tactic to control their partners so your friend/family member may worry that the abuse is her fault.  Make her aware that the abuse is NOT her fault and that what is happening to her is NOT right.

You need to be there to support her, not be another person putting pressure on her.  Talk about all of her positives and strengths and tell her how well she is coping with such a difficult situation.  Do not criticise her behavior in any way.  She may already feel isolated and lonely because the abuser has restricted her access to friends and family and she may have already started to believe her partner’s constant criticism.  She needs support and understanding and to know that she is NOT alone.

You don’t need to try to be the expert and have all of the answers, you don’t need even need to understand her situation you just need to be patient and to support your friend by listening to her, believing her, encouraging her, and reassuring her.

Gently encourage her to seek advice from a Domestic Violence organization who understands her problem and who know how to help.  Knowing there is help out there can be vital to moving forward.

If she thinks she is in danger, explain that domestic abuse is against the law and the police can and will help her.  This can save lives.

It can take a very long time to understand you are being abused and even longer to do anything about it. While it’s not easy to know how to support someone who is experiencing domestic abuse, you can make a difference.

Practical things you can do to help

There are simple practical ways you can help someone in need:

  • Encourage her to think about her safety and to focus on her own needs
  • Offer to keep copies of important documents like passports, birth certificates, money and clothing in case of emergency
  • Agree a code word you can use if she is in serious danger or need of help
  • Talk to her about emergency situations and make sure she has an emergency contingency plan
  • Provide her with information and phone numbers for people she can rely on for information and support, such as a domestic abuse organization
  • Find out her legal rights and share the information with her

Social Conditions of Abuse

It has been shown that certain social conditions can lead to the creation of an environment where abuse can take place more easily than if these conditions did not exist.  When coupled with other warning signs (explained in the previous section), these conditions can often provide a useful indication of whether domestic abuse is occurring and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rigid gender roles
  • Gender-based economic dependency
  • Gender based glass ceiling
  • Objectification of females
  • Focus on physical aspects of a partner
  • Prevalent use of pornography

The Cycle of Violence in Domestic Abuse

It is important to be aware of the fact that Domestic Abuse typically falls into a common pattern, or cycle of violence.  This cycle can often lead to forgiveness, self-blame or confusion by a victim and facilitates further abusive instances.  An abuser’s apology and remorse coupled with his loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave.  This can typically lead victims to believe that they are the only person who can help the abuser, that things will be different in the future, and that the abuser truly loves them.  This leads to an increasingly dangerous situation.

The cycle of abuse as outlined on www.domesticviolence.org is typically seen as follows:

  • An initial abusive incident occurs (can be physical, psychological or sexual)
  • Tension builds, with the abuser trying to quell their violent tendency and the abuse trying to ‘keep the peace’ until finally, another incident happens
  • Make-up: the abuser apologises, often promising never to do it again, or conversely, trying to shed blame by saying that the victim ‘asked for it’ or is ‘making a big deal out of nothing’.
  • Calm: both parties act as if nothing is wrong and do their best to ignore the mounting problem

This cycle can go on and on with both parties behavior following the same pattern over and over.  As time goes on the ‘Make up’ stages will get shorter and the ‘abusive stages’ will get longer.  The violence or abuse can escalate and become more dangerous.

Over time, victims of domestic abuse (like victims of all other types of abuse and trauma) can develop PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Studies of PTSD have shown that individuals suffering with this have a tendency to be violent and therefore the cycle of abuse is repeated through generations and can hence be very hard to break. Source: Psychology today