In 2021, there were 613,929 recorded incidents of domestic abuse in England and Wales. A devastating figure which included a significant number of sexual offences.
While this figure was somewhat inflated by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, domestic abuse in the UK is fast becoming a pandemic in its own right.
It can be tricky to see signs of domestic abuse; often it can be a slow process of manipulation over a long period of time. So, what is domestic abuse exactly and what are some signs to be aware of? Keep reading to know…
What is Domestic Abuse?
The term ‘domestic abuse’ covers a multitude of sins, including violence, sexual abuse and controlling or threatening behaviour committed by family members or intimate partners.
Victims of domestic abuse will often choose to suffer in silence through either fear or shame, meaning that the abuse will sometimes continue for a long period of time. This can result in mental and physical health problems, claiming the lives of both men and women.
How to Spot the Signs of Domestic Abuse
In the UK, domestic abuse results in the deaths of two women every week and 30 men every year. These are devastating figures that could be eliminated by taking the first step of identifying victims and helping them to escape the clutches of their abusers. Some signs to spot include:
Domestic abuse can take many forms, making it difficult to spot the signs sometimes. However, the following are all strong indications that somebody may be a victim of abuse in the home.
1. Regular Marked and Bruised Skin
You may notice that somebody frequently displays bruises or scratches and, from their explanations of these injuries, appear to be extremely accident-prone. While accidents do happen, regular occurrences of injury may indicate that something more sinister is happening.
2. Being Cut Off from Friends and Family
If a loved one is frequently unavailable for visits or social occasions, this may be because their activities are being controlled by a partner or family member. In cases of domestic abuse, it’s common for the abuser to isolate the victim by cutting them off from family and friends in order to exert control over them.
3. Restricted Spending Habits
A victim of domestic abuse will often be very wary of spending money and will frequently make excuses for not buying themselves something.
They will usually state that they are saving up or have had some unexpected expenses. In reality, the simple reason is that they fear reprisals from a spouse, partner or family member for making unnecessary purchases.
4. Obsessive Phone Behaviour
In many cases, you will notice that a victim of domestic abuse will receive a lot of phone calls or texts while away from their partner. For example, while attending a girl’s night, or whilst they’re out with family, checking on them a lot.
They will tend to check their phones obsessively, which can be a sign that they fear their partner’s anger should they not respond to a call or message immediately.
5. Change in Character
Victims of domestic abuse will often become quiet and withdrawn, particularly when attending social events with their partners. If your friend or loved one’s previously bubbly personality seems to have undergone a change, this can be a very real sign that something is wrong.
6. Dressing Down Appearance
A key sign to look out for when identifying domestic abuse is a drastic change in somebody’s appearance. For example, if a female friend begins to change the way that they dress, perhaps swapping their usual style for clothes that are unattractive or cover more of the body.
This can be a classic sign of control by an abusive partner and can occur over a period of time.
7. Anxious Behaviour
A victim of domestic abuse will frequently appear to be anxious or jumpy, particularly in the presence of their abuser. This may manifest in physical symptoms such as shaking hands and nervous tics.
8. Eager to Please Others
Abuse often results in a fear of ‘getting it wrong and subsequent reprisals. So, if a friend or loved one seems to be overly eager to please or reluctant to make decisions, this could mean that there’s something going on at home.
9. Lack of Concentration
Domestic abuse commonly results in a loss of concentration which can frequently affect the victim’s work life. If a colleague suddenly begins to perform badly or is making frequent mistakes that are uncharacteristic, it may be a sign that there’s abuse happening.
10. Makes Excuses for their Aggression
Victims of domestic abuse will tend to make excuses for their abuser’s behaviour, even to the point of blaming themselves. For example, ‘he shouldn’t have yelled at me but I do keep forgetting to make the bed the way he likes’, or, ‘he’s really stressed with work at the moment.
What to do if you Suspect That Somebody is Being Abused?
First and foremost, don’t attempt to confront the abuser as this will most likely make things worse. Instead, gently explain your suspicions and make it clear that you are there to listen and to help.
When they are ready, encourage them to get in touch with one of the UK’s outstanding domestic abuse organisations, such as Refuge or Mind. They will be able to help with practical issues, such as accommodation, as well as provide emotional support.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up if You Suspect Domestic Abuse…
For a victim of domestic abuse, life can be frightening and lonely. So, just the act of spotting the signs and having a gentle conversation with the victim can be a comfort.
By being vigilant, and looking out for those around you, you may save a life.