- What is abuse?
Abuse essentially involves the misuse of power and exercise of control by one person over another with whom there is or has been a close relationship.
Abuse occurs irrespective of gender, race, class, age, religion, sexuality, mental ability, physical ability, income, lifestyle or geographical area of residence.
- How do I recognise abuse?
There's no simple way to know whether someone you know is experiencing abuse, but there are signs that you can look out for. They may be small at first, but over time they may become more obvious. Here are some examples of changes in behaviour that may occur:
- Changes in clothing and hairstyle
- Isolation and withdrawal from friends and family
- Changes in use of social networking sites – such as posting fewer updates, removing photos or deleting friends
- Cancelling plans or making excuses not to spend time with friends
- Constantly apologising for a person's behaviour
- Depression or anxiety, less happy than they used to be
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse you can seek help and support from the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline, any time of the day or night.
- Who are the victims of domestic abuse?
The vast majority of the victims of domestic abuse are women and children.
Women are also considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, and sexual abuse. Women may experience domestic abuse regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, age, sexuality, disability or lifestyle. Domestic abuse can also occur in a range of relationships including heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships, and extended families.
- What about male victims of domestic abuse?
We recognise that controlling and abusive behaviour can occur in male gay relationships and by women against men.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, have experienced domestic abuse, or are worried about a friend or relative who is experiencing domestic abuse, call the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual; Violence Helpline for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Is it my fault?
It's extremely common for an abusive person to blame the violence on the person they are being violent towards. This is just another form of abuse, and happens because they do not want to take responsibility for their violent actions.
Domestic abuse is never the fault or responsibility of anyone except the abuser. Your partner is an adult and makes a choice about the actions he/she takes. They could choose to walk away from the situation but instead their choice is to be abusive. Whether it's physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse, it's completely unacceptable.
There is no excuse for domestic abuse.
- Is abuse a crime?
Yes, domestic abuse is a crime.
While there is no single criminal offence of domestic abuse, there are a number of behaviours and actions, which take place with a domestic situation, which are criminal offences.
These include assault, threatening to kill, wounding, strangling or choking, harassment, criminal damage to property, putting the victim in fear of violence, rape and sexual assault.
- How common is domestic abuse?
- One in every 4 women in Wales & England will experience domestic abuse by their partner or ex-partner at some time in their life.
- In the UK, 2 women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.
- Incidents of domestic abuse make up nearly a quarter of violent crime and a woman will be assaulted on average 35 times before reporting it to the police.
But the term 'domestic abuse' doesn't only include physical violence - it describes any abusive behaviour repeatedly used by one person to control and/or dominate another person with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship. It also includes the exertion of control and/ or domination of one family member over another.
- In 90% of domestic abuse incidents children are in the same or the next room (Hughes, 1992).
Even when it appears that children aren't being directly abused themselves, research shows that they are likely to be aware of what is happening.
- One third of children will try and intervene during attacks, and children sometimes feel guilty if they don't come to their parent's aid.
- It is estimated that between one to two thirds of children in homes where the mother is being abused are also at risk of being directly abused themselves.
- Why do people stay in an abusive relationship?
There are many reasons why someone stays in an abusive relationship but none of them are related to getting something out of the violence and abuse.
Often a victim is too frightened to leave. Their partner may have threatened to kill them, the children or the pets. They may even have threatened to kill themself if the victim leaves.
- Research shows that most domestic murders take place at the point of leaving or after leaving and when a woman is in another relationship.
A victim may be worried about uprooting their children or having to leave them behind or having them taken into care if people find out about the abuse.
Many people blame themselves for the abuse; they think it is their fault. They may lack the confidence to leave or feel guilty and shameful about having allowed the abuse to happen to them and their children.
Many people are still unaware of the help and support available from agencies and the Police.
Often abusers withhold money from their partners so victims have no money with which to escape.
Emotional abuse often leaves a victim feeling powerless, and they may think they are not strong enough to leave, and / or strong enough to survive on their own. They may worry that they won't be able to find somewhere to live or get money to live on.
Many victims are still emotionally attached to their partners despite the abuse. This does not mean they enjoy the violence but they may think that their partner will change or that they can stop the violence and make the relationship work.
Many victims do not realise how common domestic violence and abuse is, they think they are the only one experiencing it.
Some or all of these reasons lead many victims to believe that there is no way out of the abusive relationship and that they would be better off staying with their partner and putting up with the incidences of domestic abuse.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence, and you need help and information regarding your options, contact the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline now.
- What types of abuse are there?
There are many different forms of domestic abuse but they fall mainly into 4 categories. These are:
- Where can I get help or support?
Domestic abuse and violence frightens and disempowers individuals and children, and no-one wants to live in fear.
The All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline
The number for the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline is 0808 80 10 800. The Helpline is open 24 hours. The Helpline is for anyone who is experiencing, or has experienced domestic abuse, or for anyone who is worried about domestic abuse happening to a friend, family member or colleague. It is free, confidential and the number will not show up on a landline telephone bill.
Always dial 999 in an emergency.
- How can I help a friend?
If your friend is being open with you and acknowledging that there is abuse going on, this is a positive sign. Try to keep in touch and communicate with them so that they do not feel isolated. Isolation is often a danger in an abusive situation.
Be supportive and don't tell them what to do. They will need to make the decision to leave the relationship and sometimes it can take women several attempts before they leave the relationship for good.
They may feel ashamed of what's happening and feel as if they are to blame. An abuser will often tell the person they are hurting that it is their fault. Domestic abuse is always the responsibility of the abuser. There's nothing that your friend could do that would make it ok for them to be abused. There is no excuse for domestic abuse and it usually gets worse over time.
Talk things through and try not to make judgement if they aren't ready to do anything yet. One of the best things that you can do is point them in the direction of some help. If you can be there to support them, this is excellent, but it will also help both of you if they contact the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline for practical and emotional support.
If they want to leave, they could think about accessing some emergency refuge accommodation. There may also be legal options they could pursue such as injunctions against their perpetrator, or contacting the Police. They could also get in touch with the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline for support, whether they want to leave or to stay in the relationship.
- What causes abuse to happen?
Abusers choose to behave violently to get what they want and achieve control over the person they are abusing. This abusive behaviour often originates from their own sense of entitlement which is often supported by sexist, racist, homophobic and other discriminatory attitudes.
Domestic abuse is 'caused' by the misuse of power and control.
Those who perpetrate domestic abuse (be it a man or a woman) choose to behave abusively to get what they want and gain control. Their behaviour often originates from a sense of entitlement which is often supported by sexist, racist, homophobic and other discriminatory attitudes
What about domestic abuse being caused by other factors, such as stress?
Domestic abuse is learned and intentional behaviour; it is not the consequence of a person's stress, individual pathology, substance use or a so-called 'dysfunctional' relationship.
Perpetrators of domestic abuse will frequently avoid taking responsibility for their behaviour, by blaming the abuse on someone or something else, denying it took place at all or minimising their behaviour.
Whilst responsibility for the actual violence is the perpetrator's alone, there are belief systems in our society that perpetuate abusive attitudes and make it difficult for men, women and children to get help.
Perpetrators will often try to justify or ignore their behaviour by:
- Minimising the violence e.g., saying it was "just a slap" or "isn't that bad".
- Justifying the behaviour to themselves and blaming the victim.
- Denying the violence happened or refusing to talk about it and expecting the victim to just "move on" (Dobash & Dobash, 2000).
What about alcohol or drugs causing domestic violence?
The use (or misuse) of substance is not the underlying cause of domestic violence. Many people who drink too much or take drugs don't abuse their partners or family members. Likewise, abusers may be violent without the use of alcohol or other drugs.
Abusers who use alcohol or drugs may use this as an excuse for their behaviour saying "I was drunk" or "I don't remember". Even if they genuinely don't remember what they did, it doesn't remove responsibility for their behaviour.
Those experiencing domestic violence may use alcohol or drugs as a form of escape from the violence, believing that this is the only thing that they have control over. Often abusers will use their partner's addiction to excuse their violent behaviour, saying they were provoked into using violence. Excuses such as these are used by the perpetrator to limit or take away the responsibility from themselves and put the blame for the violence onto their partners/family.
- A study of 336 convicted offenders of domestic violence, found that alcohol was a feature in 62% of offences and 48% of offenders were alcohol dependent (Gilchrist et al, 2003).
- One study of 60 women using crack cocaine in London found that 40% reported regular physical assaults from current partner – rising to 70% if past partners were included. (Bury et al, 1999).
Is domestic abuse caused by a lack of control?
Domestic violence is about the abuser gaining power and control, not a lack of control. If an abuser is careful about when, where and to whom they are abusive, then they show an awareness and knowledge about their actions suggesting that they are not 'out of control'. Abusers use violence and tactics of coercion as a way of exercising control and getting what they want.
Can domestic abuse be caused by mental illness?
The vast majority of people with mental health problems do not abuse other people. However, there are a small number of people who are in mental distress who may behave abusively, though this may not be caused by the mental health problem itself.
If an abuser is careful about when, where and to whom they are abusive then they are an awareness and knowledge about their actions to indicate they are making choosing to behave in a certain manner.
If an abuser is random and unpredictable, being abusive to strangers as well as people they know (e.g. in public and in the workplace), then mental illness may be a possibility. Even if this is the case, it still doesn't mean that the abusive behaviour is excusable. In these situations, it is important that the safety of you and your children is prioritised and that the person experiencing mental distress obtains the professional care they need.
- Research suggests that mental health issues are more likely to result from domestic violence than to cause it. Women who have experienced domestic violence have higher rates of mental illness: 64% experience post-traumatic stress disorder, 48% have depression, and 18% attempt or commit suicide.
- What do I do if I cannot live at home anymore because of domestic abuse?
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, local groups in Wales can support you (and your children if you have any) with refuge accommodation if you feel that you can no longer live at home.
Seek information on the options that may be available to you, such as finding a safe, temporary place to stay by contacting the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline on freephone 0808 80 10 800.
If you do not wish to go into a refuge, there may be other forms of support available to you if you within the community - this is often described as 'outreach' or 'floating' support.
Many groups also have information centres where you can drop in and have a chat with people from the group about your situation or that of someone you know.
- What if I have a disability?
Many of our member groups provide services for men, women and children with a variety of support needs.
Our member groups have refuges with full or partial wheelchair accessibility, as do a number of the information and drop-in centres that our member groups provide. Some member groups can also provide BSL interpreting services, as well as access to a BSL worker.
As long as an appropriate service is available, men, women, children & young people will be able to access refuge or community support services.
For more information, contact the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
- What can I do about abuse from a same sex partner?
We recognise that domestic abuse can happen in same sex relationships, as well as in heterosexual relationships.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of your partner, contact the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline on freephone 0808 80 10 800. Your call will be treated in confidence, and the number will not show up on landline bills.
The All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline can provide you with information and signposting to any agencies that you feel would be appropriate for your particular situation.
There is no excuse for domestic abuse and everyone has a right to live a life free from domestic abuse.
- What do I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
For immediate support and information call the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
- Try to report the incident to the Police as soon as possible (if that is the choice you have made) – this may assist in the early capture of the attacker. Medical evidence ideally needs to be collected within 72 hours of the attack.
- You should not wash your face, body, hair teeth or shower before you have had a medical examination. This can destroy vital evidence if you do decide to report the incident to the Police.
- If you have brushed your teeth, there may still be traces of DNA, so keep the toothbrush in a sealed bag, in a cold place, until a time that it is given to the Police or destroyed.
- You should not wash any of the clothes that were worn; instead they should be sealed in a brown paper bag or if wet, in a plastic bag and kept in a cold place, a freezer if possible.
- Any towels, bed sheets or blankets should also be sealed and kept in a cold place.
- Any weapon used in the assault should also be kept and given to the Police.
- You should gather any bottles, cans, glasses, knives, forks or other equipment that might have come into contact with the perpetrator, especially if the object has made contact with the mouth, such as a cup or glass. Again these should be stored in a sealed paper or plastic bag and kept in a cold place.
- Try not take any alcohol or drugs as this may lessen your credibility.
- The choice as to whether or not to report the incident to the Police must be entirely up to you, you can choose to have a forensic medical examination without reporting to the Police.
- How many people access refuge / abuse services each year?
The All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline has received more than 215,000 telephone calls since going live in 2004.
Between April – September 2011:
13,656 calls were made to the Helpline
1903 callers wanted emergency refuge referrals.
During this same period 4,588 callers were referred to other specialist services for additional support
3438 callers wanted someone to listen to them and offer support
On Valentine's Day 2011, domestic abuse organisations in Wales were supporting 1950 women and 1658 children and young people*.
* Welsh Women's Aid (2011), Valentine's Day Services Snapshot. These statistics include figures from Welsh Women's Aid, Llamau Women's Services, Hafan Cymru and Montgomeryshire Family Crisis Centre.
- I don't want to go into refuge, how can I keep myself safe?
Many people experiencing domestic abuse do not want to end their relationship or leave their family home. This is your choice.
If you are planning on staying with your partner, or in your own home, you should consider how you can increase your levels of safety whether you are still living with your partner or not.
The All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline can help you to assess your own levels of safety, based on the information that you provide. They can provide information on safety planning, and they can signpost you to other agencies who may be able to assist in increasing your levels of safety.
Alternatively, you can look at the Safety Planning information sections on this website for suggestions and guidance on the best things to do:
Safety Planning for Women
Safety Planning for Men
Safety Planning for Children
- What is refuge?
Refuges are a safe, temporary, confidential place to stay for men, women and children who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse.
There are refuges across Wales and if you want to access refuge accommodation, the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline can help to coordinate this.
- What legal help can I get?
If you are experiencing domestic abuse by your current or former partner, then you have a right to be protected under the law. These are some of the legal options available to you.
- You have rights under the criminal law. Being assaulted by someone you know or live with is just as much a crime as abuse by a stranger, and often more dangerous. You can contact the police and they have a duty to offer you protection and investigate. They should take you seriously and arrest an abuser where there is evidence of abuse.
- You can apply for a civil court order to tell your abuser to stop harassing or hurting you, or keep out of or away from your home. For civil protection you can contact the Community Legal Advice line
- The law can also help protect children. You can apply to the Family Courts for an order specifying where and with whom the children should live, and regulating contact with the other parent.
For further information please contact the All Wales Domestic abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline.
- I am from a BME community, what help is there available to me?
There are a number of specialist services available to women from the BME community who are experiencing domestic abuse.
For more information on these services, you can contact the agencies directly or call the All Wales Domestic Abuse & Sexual Violence Helpline who will be able to signpost you to these services or provide you with further information.
- Am I at risk?