Domestic abuse is very common and anyone can be a victim. There's no single reason why domestic abuse occurs. It can affect men and women in both straight and gay relationships, and it happens between people regardless of culture, religion, age or class.
If you are a young person in a household where domestic abuse is taking place, it is likely that you will have seen or heard domestic abuse taking place, or see the injuries and aftermath. In some case you may also be a victim of domestic.
Some young people or children may try to get in the middle and stop the abuse taking place. Sometimes abusers may force you to stay in one room or ban you from doing activities. In some cases abusers may make you watch the abuse taking place or force you to join in,
Any child or young person who is involved in domestic violence is being emotionally abused. You may feel guilty, angry, scared, confused, alone and frustrated.
How it can affect you
Domestic Abuse there any many different types of domestic abuse:
- Physical abuse – when someone hits or punches you, kicks, pushes, chokes you, or uses weapons against you
- Financial and controlling abuse – when someone restricts your freedoms, doesn’t let you work, takes your money and controls your finances, isolates you and stops you seeing friends or family members
- Sexual abuse – when someone pressures you or forces you to have sex (this is rape), touches or gropes you, or makes you watch porn
- Emotional or psychological abuse – when someone constantly criticises you, disrespects you, makes you feel small, guilty or scared; stalks or blackmails you; watches and checks up on you; plays mind-games; threatens you, your family, pets or your belongings. Coercive and controlling behaviour is against the law and can be reported to the police.
The affects of being a victim of domestic abuse may also cause you to:
- have trouble sleeping
- feel anxious or depressed
- complain of physical symptoms
- start to wet the bed or behave as though they are younger than they are
- have problems at school
- self harm or start using drugs or alcohol
Remember you are not alone, and you are not to blame.
Worried about someone
If you are worried about someone and think they may be a victim of abuse, it can be hard to know what to do about it. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether someone is actually a victim or not, and even if you are sure something is wrong, there is not always a straightforward solution.
Your help can make a real difference, and help and support is available, even if you and the victim don't want to involve the police. You can call the domestic abuse helpline on 0161 636 7525 for guidance (and you don't have to tell them your name) and you can get advice and information from www.endthefear.co.uk.
If you think the situation is getting worse, or the person is at risk, do contact the police for help.
Try to make yourself easily approachable to the victim, so they feel able to open up to you if and when the time comes.
If you have serious concerns about a friend or family member, don’t wait for them to bring it up. Find a safe time and place when the abuser is not around and raise it with them. Be sensitive and respectful in the way you talk about it. Don’t blame the victim or their partner, just make it clear you are worried about them and want to offer your help and support if they need it. If they don’t want to talk about it, respect their decision and make it clear that this is fine too. They may open up to you again at a later time.
Be patient. Even if your support is knocked-back at first, your words may be enough to make them think about what is happening to them and could encourage them to seek help or open up to you again in the future. Don’t just tell them to leave their partner, and try not to get frustrated at them if they stay with the abuser – it is their decision. Don’t give up on them if they leave and then return to the abuser.
If they do talk to you about what is going on, the way you respond to them will make a real difference – they may feel empowered and more able to cope now that they have you to talk things through with, more able to explore options and make choices. You may not have all the answers, but by helping someone to break the silence on their abuse, you are helping them take important first steps to getting help and support.
Understand that it is not always as simple as the victim simply leaving the abuser. Relationships are very complicated and there may also be children involved. They may not recognise that they are a victim of abuse, and abusers often promise to ‘change’. Their partner may have threatened them or their children with violence if they try to leave, and leaving the abuser doesn’t mean that the abuse will stop.
If you raise the issue first, they may initially deny there is a problem or turn down your support.
The victim is NEVER to blame for the abuse.
Find out about the help and support that is available from local and national support services. Help them think about options and choices.
Come up with a code word they can use to let you know if they are in danger and need help.
Offer to keep an overnight bag and important documents for them, so if they need to leave their abuser at the last-minute, they have the things they need.
Look after yourself
Try not to lose heart if it feels like you are not helping your friend as much as you would like. Just being there for them matters a great deal.
Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation or let the abuser see you as a ‘threat’ to their relationship.
You can get help too. Many domestic violence support services can offer help to friends and family members who are affected. They can help you support your friend.
Recognise the signs
Every case is different, but there are tell-tale signs:
- Injuries – Bruising, cuts or injuries or walking stiffly or appears sore. These injuries may come with explanations that don’t fit with the description.
- Excuses – the victim may excuse their injuries by claiming they are clumsy or gives the same explanation each time.
- Stress –displays physical symptoms related to stress, other anxiety disorders or depression, such as panic attacks, feelings of isolation and an inability to cope. She may even talk about suicide attempts or self-harming.
- Absent from work - often off work, takes time off without notice or is frequently late.
- Personality changes – you may notice personality changes when the victim is around their partner, appears to ‘walk on eggshells’, may be jumpy or nervous.
- Low self-esteem – low self-esteem or lack of confidence regarding their relationship or life in general and may seem sad, cry or be depressed.
- Lack of opportunity to communicate independently – perhaps their partner talks over them, or for them. Their partner may appear controlling or regularly belittle the victim.
- Self blame – may take the blame for anything that happens, whether it’s at work, with the kids or with friends. They may blame themselves for the abuse.
- Lack of money – never seems to have any money because their partner is withholding money to control them.
- Stops socialising – makes excuses for not going out with friends, or suddenly pulls out of social meets at the last minute.
- Partner displays irrational behaviour – their partner is jealous, irrational or possessive. Their partner may accuse them of having affairs, flirting or may read their emails, check their phone or constantly phone to check up on them.
- Unwanted pregnancy/termination – pregnancy often triggers the start of domestic abuse. She may be unhappy at being pregnant, not wish to continue with the pregnancy, or be forced into having a termination.
- Substance abuse –may use alcohol or drugs to cope or even prescribed drugs such as tranquillisers or anti-depressants.
- Damage to property – there may be damage to the home or even harm to pets.
- Unwilling to give out personal details – may not give friends and colleagues their address or telephone number and may insist that they contact you, so that you don’t turn up on their doorstep"
Find help and support
You can still access support even if you don't choose to report it to the police.
ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen.
Domestic abuse support from Childline
Women’s Aid have created this space to help young people understand domestic abuse, and how to take positive action if it’s happening to you.
Young victims of abuse
Domestic violence doesn’t just happen between married adults. Teenagers and young people can also experience abusive relationships. It’s not normal and it is never ok.
Find out more and get advice from this website. It tells you about the different types of abuse and what you can do to get help:
Getting help from the police
You don’t have to report domestic violence to the police, and many victims are worried about what will happen to them, their children and their partners if they do make a report.
But to help you cope, it is important to try and break the silence and speak to someone about what is happening. It could be your GP, a trusted friend, family member or neighbour.
The first step towards building a new, safer and fear-free life is telling someone about the abuse.
If you are in immediate danger, dial 999.
Involving the police
In an emergency: dial 999
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or are worried about a friend or family member, always dial 999 in an emergency.
In a non-emergency: dial 101
Use this number to report a non-emergency incident or make a general enquiry.
Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Crimestoppers is a charity, entirely independent of police. Crimestoppers never shares with police details of people who have got in touch.
If you are considering making a report to the police, you can help them by:
- Providing as much detail as possible about what has happened to you
- Making a note of the time and date and place the incident(s) took place
- Providing the names and addresses of anyone who saw/heard the abuse or whom you told about what was happening to you.
- Keeping anything that may confirm what happened to you e.g. mobile phone video or audio recording, threatening text messages or abusive mail.
You can apply for a Domestic Violence Protection Order from the police. These orders can stop the abuser from returning to your home for up to 28 days. This can give you respite from the abuse and time to consider your options.
If abuser breaches the order it could then lead to a prison sentence. You may be able to get help and advice by caseworkers if you choose to leave the relationship - including securing a longer-term injunction against the abuser.
Coercive and controlling behaviour
From December 2015 a new law came into effect making coercive and controlling behaviour a crime. This means that police can arrest offenders for such behaviour and offer protection to victims who, in the past, may have been unable to report it.
Specialist domestic abuse investigators
You can contact your local Specialist Domestic Abuse Investigators for help, advice and support.