Every hour 6 women are killed by people they know. In the United States, an average of 20 people experience intimate partner physical violence every minute! Anybody can be subject to domestic violence, but this problem is often ignored, especially when the abuse is psychological in nature. If you felt abused or saw a friend in a similar situation, would you ask for help? Do you know your rights and would you be able to protect yourself and others? Or perhaps you are the source of violence in the family? Let’s navigate through the abundance of information.
“It’s a complicated subject that cannot be simplified. I believe that in order for something to change, we need to have the courage to talk about uncomfortable topics.”
— Yana Mazurkevich
author of the photography project on sexual violence
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic or intimate partner violence is the repetitive (taking place more than twice) abuse of one partner or relative by another, first and foremost within the family circle. It can occur between spouses, it can be child or parental abuse. It is important to distinguish between conflict and abuse – while the former can be resolved in an argument, a conversation, maybe even a scandal, then the latter is far more difficult to resolve, because it involves the systematic humiliation or degradation of an individual, the main reason for which is the aggression of the attacker and their desire to subdue the victim, a desire that is often only indirectly motivated by a specific problem or a misunderstanding between the parties.
How do you know that you have been abused?
Abuse is characterised by the following repercussions:
Physical or psychological suffering (pain, anxiety, worries)
Deterioration of the victim’s quality of life
Despite common belief, domestic violence is not only the infliction of physical damage and coerced sexual intercourse. There are several forms of abuse:
Psychological and emotional abuse is often disregarded, but is one of the most dangerous, since it results in irreparable damage to a person’s mental integrity, destroying their identity. This includes the control of a person’s behaviour, their thinking and emotions, information control (what the victim watches or reads, who they interact with, where they go), blackmail, isolation, ignoring, gaslighting. Apart from adults, children, who are hit particularly hard by emotional withdrawal, often suffer from this form of abuse.
Physical abuse — any form of physically aggressive behaviour (beatings, bodily harm, sleep or eating interruptions, refusal to help in case of illness or trauma, indoor confinement, etc.). Any threat of physical violence amounts to abuse.
Sexual abuse — coerced sexual activity. Consent to past sexual activity does not indicate ongoing consent, and sexual abuse can be both verbal and physical.
Who can be a victim?
85% of domestic violence victims are women. Six women die every hour due to ill-treatment. Men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol and unequal gender norms. Women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence if they have low education, exposure to mothers being abused by a partner, abuse during childhood, and attitudes accepting violence and women’s subordinate status. Domestic violence occurs across the world and affects people of all economic statuses, however such indicators as unemployment or low income have been shown to be risk factors for higher levels of domestic violence
Nevertheless, the victims also include men and children. Women principally have a predisposition to emotional and financial abuse, but they can use physical strength against children. For example, in a family where the husband employs force against his partner, the later will lash out on the children. One in four children has been the subject of some form of mistreatment or neglect from the part of adults.
Moreover, it is very important to understand the scope and scale of the negative impact of violence between parents on the children’s psyche and safety. Two videos with examples can be found below.
1 in 4 children has been the subject of some form of mistreatment or neglect from the part of adults. Moreover, it is very important to understand the scope and scale of the negative impact of violence between parents on the children’s psyche and safety.
Warning: this video contains sensitive content that may provoke a strong reaction
The majority of deaths take place when the victim tries to leave the abuser. Many survivors are afraid, they are intimidated, receive death threats, are humiliated and are made to believe their own insignificance and helplessness.
It’s shameful that someone will find out what goes on in the family, it’s shameful that the individual concerned allows themselves to be treated in this manner.
There is hope that the abuser will change, that he loves the victim ‘in his own way’.
And the idea that the victim probably deserves this type of treatment due to their behaviour.
How to act?
If you became a victim or witness of violence:
Understand that violence cannot be justified It is always the abuser’s fault. It doesn’t matter if you disobeyed or offended the attacker, recourse to abuse is inhumane and, as established by the Istanbul Convention of 2011, illegal.
Record everything that happens Take pictures and videos of beatings, make police reports about threats and attacks, audio record instances of humiliation.
Tell everyone you know Aggressors consider themselves to be stronger, they terrorise victims and gain an upper hand with impunity. Tell your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues. It’s hard, but everyone will know what’s going on and the abuser will find himself alienated from society, whereas you will receive the help you require.
Think of a safety plan in case of an emergency Prepare all the necessary documents, money and a safe place to live.
Protect yourself or run
Ask for help For example, from a confidant or from specialised services.
Follow the #metoo and #notokay hashtags on Instagram and Facebook, thousands of women have found themselves in the same boat, you’re not alone! You have nothing to be ashamed of, the abuser who preys on the weak should be the one ashamed. If you know of someone in danger, don’t ignore them, don't walk past with eyes downcast. Look, shout, call for help! At the end of the day, anyone can find themselves at the mercy of an abuser.