Escaping Abusive Relationships
Domestic violence and abuse can take many forms. From criticism and put-downs to controlling money or physically hurting you there are many ways in which a partner’s desire for power and control can spill over into your relationship. There are all kinds of protections available for women experiencing abuse. You should know your rights and also what immediate support is available to you.
Talking About itThe first thing you should consider is talking to family or friends. You may be afraid of making things worse but you will be better off with the issue out in the open. If you find this very difficult, charities such as Samaritans, Women’s Aid and Refuge all provide confidential support and advice over the phone. You can also call your local police station and ask to speak to their domestic violence unit. Be prepared to leave a message on their machine. They will be discreet when returning your call. If you are in immediate danger then you should call 999.
Knowing Your RightsThe law recognises and protects against numerous forms of abuse against partners and children. Courts can be asked to make Occupation Orders forcing your partner out of the house or Non-Molestation Orders to protect yourself and your children. As well as being a crime, domestic violence can also be used as grounds for a divorce, under the classification of Unreasonable Behaviour.
Domestic violence can include making fun in a way designed to hurt or humiliate you, threatening you, or having sudden outbursts of anger. Preventing you from taking part in family events or controlling your behaviour are other forms. Your partner physically or emotionally hurting you, your children or your pets is also domestic violence. Forcing you to perform sexual acts that you are not comfortable with is another form.
You should not have to change your appearance, avoid talking about certain ‘sensitive’ topics or be forced to avoid contact with friends or family in order to keep your partner satisfied. You have rights which you do not lose as a result of being in a relationship.
Leaving Your HomeIf the abuse if unbearable or you have to leave your home swiftly, the first thing you should be aware of is that you will not lose any rights to your property. You might want to consult a solicitor to make sure the home cannot be sold or to freeze any joint bank accounts until an agreement can be made. You may also be eligible for legal aid so you should ask the solicitor when you first speak.
If you cannot stay with family or friends, both Women’s Aid and Refuge can provide temporary shelter and additional support. They have accommodation and care facilities for children, guidance counsellors and other resources. You may find it useful to make a list of all your needs and concerns before calling them.
Difficulty Making a BreakIn many cases a woman will be in more danger at the point of leaving an abusive partner, or just after she has left. Obstacles such as a lack of money, having no suitable place to go and few people to turn to for support can also make it hard to remain strong at this stage. You will need courage to take the necessary steps.
Try to keep your self-confidence up. Remember that you are doing this for your own good and for your children. A divorce or separation is always painful for everyone involved. It will have a long-term effect on your children and yourself. But it also marks the start of a new chapter in your family’s life. It will take time to process the emotion it brings up, so it may be years before you are finally able to feel clear about it.
Keep at the forefront of your mind the fact that the abuse is not your fault. Your partner has been intentionally and systematically making attempts to abuse and control you. This behaviour is entirely his responsibility. Unless you are strong, he will probably continue making you do things you do not want to do.