Domestic abuse how it impacts on families

The definition of Domestic Abuse

“A statutory definition of domestic abuse will help to do this, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical or sexual violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse”.

Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Safeguarding

Domestic abuse the facts

Many people still believe that domestic abuse is violence and control, when in fact it is a multitude of behaviours that dis-enable the non-abusive partner. For many survivors of domestic abuse the emotional / psychological abuse has the most long term effect on them. Domestic abuse does not just happen with adults, it can happen with young people, same sex couples and elderly couples. Did you know that domestic abuse can affect the unborn baby too?

What behaviours are present in an abusive relationship

Belittling the partner verbally and also doing this in front of children if they have children.

Withholding money, or counting every penny the non-abusive partner spends.

Being verbally aggressive, shouting in a threatening manner.

Isolating, this can be a huge factor that causes self-esteem and confidence issues. I have known non-abusive partners to become agoraphobic as a result of isolation.

The perpetrator may take their bad day out of the non-abusive partner.

Withhold or demand sex, this includes rape.

May urinate on the non-abusive partner to show their dominance.

Threaten to hurt or kill the children, if the non-abusive partner does not comply with them in terms of their commands.

Check out where the non-abusive partner has been and who they have been with.

Physically hit the non-abusive partner usually where no one can see the marks at first.

Cut of friends and family this is to isolate and ensure the non-abusive partner does not tell anyone what is happening to them. Also, to make the non-abusive partner to solely rely on them.

Making the non-abusive partner wear clothes they want them to wear, this includes ripping up clothes or hiding clothes so the non-abusive partner can’t go out.

Treating the non-abusive partner like a slave, getting the children to treat the non-abusive partner the same as he or she.

Telling the non-abusive partner that they are fat, ugly, stupid etc and that no one else will love them like them or put up with them.

Intimidation, the non-abusive partner may be afraid of what the perpetrator of abuse may do and believe they may do something to hurt them or their children if they have them. If they don’t have children the perpetrator may say they will kill the family pet or kill someone from the non-abusive partners family.

The abusive partner may control any social media or check the non-abusive partners phone if they let them have one.

The perpetrator may stop the non-abusive partner from getting employment, from having hobbies or interests.

The perpetrator of abuse may continually get the woman pregnant (if the non-abusive partner is a woman) if the perpetrator is a woman she can use pregnancy to keep the non-abusive partner with her.

If they have children, the perpetrator may make sure that he or she collects the children together so that the non-abusive partner can not speak to anyone about what is happening to them.

If the non-abusive partner has substantial injuries that they may need medical attention the perpetrator may go with them to ensure they do not tell anyone what really happened.

If the non-abusive partner cooks a meal, the perpetrator may use this as a way to embarrass and upset the non-abusive partner by saying it is slop, tasteless and disgusting and may throw it or get the children if they have them to agree with them.

The perpetrator may blame the non-abusive partner and say it is all their fault.

The non-abusive partner may try often to leave and the perpetrator may threaten to kill themselves.

May also threaten to take the children off them if they have children.

May coheres the non-abusive partner to do illegal things.

If the non-abusive partner contacts the Police, the perpetrator may threaten or coheres the non-abusive partner to drop any charges against them.

The perpetrator may play mind games and gaslighting them, so the non-abusive partner questions themselves.

The perpetrator may not have to say verbal things, a look a gesture can mean many things to an non-abusive partner.

This list is not exhaustive and for a person who is going through domestic abuse, they can probably add to this list.

So how does domestic abuse affect a non-abusive partner?

By the time the non-abusive partner has experienced any on the above list they may appear to be a shadow of their former self. For family and friends this can be devastating, as they can see some of what is happening but feel helpless as the non-abusive partner attempts to keep the full horrific events from their friends and family and continues to back up the perpetrator.

The following list again is not exhaustive for the non-abusive partner

They may have low self-esteem and confidence

Low self-worth

Feel a failure

Feel insignificant

Feel ugly

Feel stupid

Feel that they are unlovable

Feel incapable of making decisions

Feel paranoid due to mind games and gaslighting

Feel fear, because they can’t go out agoraphobia

Feel dirty or used

Feel hopeless

Struggle to think about what to wear.

Feel anxious or have panic attacks

Feel weak

Struggle to parent their children as this role had been taken off them

Struggle with finances as again, the perpetrator did everything

Struggle with negative thoughts and feelings

Fear confrontation

Become permissive

Become a people pleaser

May turn to drink or alcohol

May turn to self-harming as they feel this releases the pain

May have eating disorders as a result as this may be the only thing they can control in their life

May feel numb or feel disassociated with their own feelings or body.

So you may think, why do non-abusive partners stay with the perpetrator? Because the perpetrator was not always domestic abusive. They had shown compassion, love etc at one time and this is what the non-abusive partner holds on to, in terms of them hoping the perpetrator of domestic abuse (their partner) will go back to being the person they fell in love with.

Non-abusive partners may also stay because they feel there is no where to go or hide as their abusive partner will always find them and things may get worse. Finances can be a big reason why the non-abusive partner stays with the perpetrator of abuse.

The effects on children if there are children involved

Children who grow up in domestic abuse, may display traits of the abusive perpetrator. It is important to note that this is learned behaviour. When a child displays similar behaviour to the perpetrator it is important that the non-abusive partner does not say they are like the perpetrator. As this can lead to the child have emotional difficulties and anger issues.

Children may also display the following:

Low self-esteem

Struggle to regulate their feelings

Try to take the place of the perpetrator as they where made to do this when the abusive partner lived with them.

Children me internalise their feelings and become quiet subdued

They may isolate themselves from other children as not to share what’s happening at home

They may miss school or be late and at times appear upset and not want to leave the non-abusive partner, in fear that their non-abusive partner may get hurt.

Children may appear hungry or unkempt, due to there not being enough money for food as the perpetrator has withheld money or the non-abusive parent is in bed due to their injuries or low mood.

Children may appear to be jumpy if they hear loud noises or someone shouting or raising their voice

Children may have nightmares which can affect them in terms of sleep, so at school they are sleepy and or fall to sleep due to lack of sleep.

Children may wet or soil themselves

Children may carry out risky behaviour, e.g. drink and alcohol, abscond from school, run away become involved in child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Children may self-harm

Control what they eat and show signs of an eating disorder

Children stop or don’t have friends over, as they do not want friends to observe what happens in their home.

Domestic abuse can effect a child in terms of concentration, being fidgety and affect their attainment. Sometimes these indicators of domestic abuse are missed and seen as the child having ADHD or behaving badly

Children may struggle with anxiety and stress

Struggle to form friendships

They may have witnessed their non-abusive parent being sexually assaulted or physically assaulted

They may learn that a particular gender are more powerful than the other gender

They may feel that there are specific roles and responsibilities for genders e.g. girls do housework men go out to work.

Children may display dominant behaviour at school

May become a bully or may become a victim of bullying

Children may have attachment difficulties due to the over parenting or lack of parenting and interaction from parents.

Domestic abuse can effect growth of a child, can delay speech or cause speech impediments

So if you look at this list they are not dissimilar to the non-abusive parent. However children have a great imagination and take in everything. So even if they are not in the same room as the abusive parent and the non-abusive parent whilst domestic abuse is being carried out Their imagination can imagine the situation being far worse then it actually was. The fear can feel very extreme and scary for a child.

So, what to do if you think you are in a domestic abusive relationship

If you are ready to take action and leave, it is important that you have a plan. You may need to do a night time flit and leave all your precessions behind. There are organisations that can help you to leave and you may need to stay in a refuge or go to family to live for a while. You can get a restraining order and a Police marker put on your place of residence. This would mean that if the perpetrator of domestic abuse comes to your new home the Police will act quickly and know there could potentially be a domestic abusive situation in progression.

Getting your plan together

If you have children speak to school, inform them about what you are about to do and also ensure they are aware that the alleged perpetrator of abuse cannot collect the children from school. Speaking to the Police and making them aware of the abuse is important, they may escort you to your previous home (where you lived with the abusive partner) and collect any processions that you and or your children need).

If children are involved the Police with notify Children’s Social Care, this is not to take the children in to care, it is to ensure the safety of the children and may involve emotional support for the children. It is important that if you tell a friend that you are planning to leave that they are not a friend of the alleged abusive perpetrator. Only tell a friend if you truly know they will not divulge any information to the abusive partner.

You may decide to press charges against the alleged abusive perpetrator, you will be supported throughout this process by the Police, domestic abuse agencies and or Social Care if you have children.

Once you have left the abusive perpetrator of domestic abuse, you can start to get your life back together, this can be a long process but a process never the less. It is important you get the right psychological help for you and or your children. You can or your children may benefit from a domestic abuse course, this will enable you to have space to talk, build self-esteem, learn about what is and what is not a healthy relationship and also be more familiar with triggers and signs of domestic abuse in any perspective new partners.

The non-abusive partner can also contact the Police if they start a new relationship and are worried that the person they have started the relationship with could possibly be a domestic abusive perpetrator. In this case the Police will share information with the non-abusive person this is called “Claire’s Law”. To check this you need to ring 101.

If you have children, they too will need emotional support and may benefit from counselling or play therapy. They may also benefit from understanding what is and what is not a healthy relationship and learning about gender roles or what they perceive to be male and female roles this is to break the cycle of domestic abuse so that they do not take these traits in to any future relationships. Below is information about support service available.

Contact details of Domestic Abuse support services

Gov website -

Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge

0808 200 0247

Galop (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)

0800 999 5428

Live Fear Free helpline (Wales)

0808 80 10 800

Men’s Advice Line

0808 801 0327

Rape Crisis (England and Wales)

0808 802 9999

Respect phoneline

0808 802 4040

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline

0800 027 1234

Scottish Women’s Aid

0131 226 6606

Women’s Aid Federation (Northern Ireland)

0800 917 1414

Women’s Aid UK Tel: 07812 984 366

NSPCC Child Line 0800 1111

Message from me

If you are currently in a domestic abusive relationship seek help, you do not have to be a verbal or physical punch bag for someone else. You have the right to feel free and happy. Remember you can flee domestic abuse during the Coronavirus pandemic, you do not have to stay in the abusive home. You do not have to continue to suffer during lockdown. You can move to a place of safety and get the support you and or your children need.

If you have found this blog useful, please like and share.