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Understanding forms of domestic abuse

View profile for Amanda Rimmer
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Understanding forms of domestic abuse

One woman in four and one man in six in the UK will be a victim of domestic violence during their lifetime, according to research. Before knowing how to deal with instances of domestic abuse it is important to have a reminder of what it is or can be.

Domestic abuse has now got a wide ranging definition and can sadly take many forms including physical abuse (including slapping and pushing), mental abuse (including intimidation, harassment, damage to property) and sexual abuse. It now also includes coercive and controlling behaviours including financial. Under the definition umbrella are threats of physical, sexual or mental abuse involving one single act or a number of acts forming a pattern of behaviours. Unfortunately many instances of such abuse are at risk of being ignored or underestimated by those who might be best placed to help.

Furthermore if a person causes a child to witness or puts a child at risk of witnessing the abuse of another person then this can also be considered as domestic abuse as well. It can impact on children even if they are not physically abused themselves. It would be impossible for a child living in a household where domestic abuse was a feature not to be affected and is often an example cited by Social Services of emotional harm sufficient to warrant removal of children from their parents’ care. The whole family is affected.

Unfortunately for individuals suffering or having survived, such abuse can often impact upon and change their behaviour making them become distant and have depressive-like symptoms. They may put themselves down, believing that they are useless and unloved, even though the perpetrator of the abuse may well profess their ‘love’ for their victim. Often a person can become separated, whether by accident or design, from the very family members best placed to notice any changes in behaviour and this exclusion from the wider family may be an early indicator that something is not right.

Sometimes it is hard to determine whether someone is being abused as the abuser is likely to be adept at controlling the situation and the victim may be skilled at hiding it in order to protect family members from the upset of knowing or to try to protect themselves from the shame they may feel.

There are a number of domestic abuse help organisations both nationally or locally, such as 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline who offer support on all aspects of domestic abuse. A good family solicitor will discuss the legal options if further action is needed and they can act quickly if need be. Legal Aid is still available to help.

When someone you love is going through a distressing time it’s very difficult to know what to do. Your initial reaction in likely to be to protect that person although you may feel that intervening may make a situation ‘worse’ especially if there are children involved. This is not to say you shouldn’t get involved. It is important that you are available to talk whenever they need you without judging what they say. Their life may depend upon it.

By family and divorce solicitor, Mandy Rimmer

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