Leaving an Abusive Relationship

An Awakened Society – Leaving An Abusive Relationship

Once upon a society, the idea of an abusive relationship was considered a shameful but rare experience, mainly saved for men who were violent towards their spouses. Terms like abusive power, controlling behaviour, coercive control and sharp power were unheard of, muttered perhaps by those who witnessed or suffered it, but never considered a real epidemic until recently.

We now know differently. We know that violence is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abusive relationships. The ways in which an abusive person gains and maintains power over another is multi-faceted and complex: abuse wears many faces and we are only now starting to uncover the myriad of ways in which we can be manipulated, coerced and controlled.

Is it Abuse?

Firstly, you have to recognise when you’re in an abusive relationship. Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime?1 Even more shockingly, on average two women per week are murdered by someone they know, compared with 30 men per year.2 Domestic abuse also accounts for 17% of all violent crimes3, despite being the least likely to be reported to the police, meaning in reality the figure is likely to be much higher. And if that wasn’t sad enough, it’s one of the biggest reasons for homelessness amongst women.4

 So, if you’re seriously asking yourself, ‘Am I in an abusive relationship?’ the answer is probably yes.

Remember that you’re not alone, even if you feel isolated.  Realising you’ve been subject to psychological, physical, sexual or financial abuse is devastating and humiliating, but it is also an opportunity to take back your power. You may never understand why your abuser has done what they’ve done. Motivations are varied, complex and entirely self-serving.  All you must know is it is not your job to be a conduit for their negativity. Believing this will help you take the first step towards breaking free.

Leaving an Abusive Relationship

Abusive relationships can be addictive. A lot of tactics abusers master mimic psychological warfare. They can isolate, gaslight, lie and play mind games with their victims, while at the same time swing wildly to grandiose expressions of love, using positive reinforcement like love bombing and flattery to make their victims hungry for more. It’s those rare but euphoric highs that create the addiction, which is why so many people stay during the lows, as well as a fear of loneliness, mistrust of others, loss of touch with oneself and intimidation, e.g. What if he finds me? Some people in even the most toxic relationships aren’t able to recognise they’re in one because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking their relationship is normal or at least ‘good enough’. It’s often why many victims, once free of their abuser, suffer from PTSD.5

Leaving such a relationship isn’t easy, but it is absolutely necessary for your sanity and safety. Thankfully, there is a lot of support out there and people who care about your well-being.

Who should I talk to?

Not everyone has close friends or family to turn to, especially if they’ve been isolated from them because of the abusive relationship (another tactic). If that’s the case, your doctor or nurse is your first port of call. They’re trained to deal with abuse cases6 and will help you with your next steps.

You can also try talking to a teacher or councillor at your child’s school, or even your Human Resources department at work. If neither of those options are viable, the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247 is free and available 24/7.7 They are there to help and guide you as you take your first steps towards leaving your abusive relationship.

 Will I be Safe?

 The best thing to do is create a safety plan, considering things like:

  1. Using a code word with friends and loved ones
  2. Agreeing on a secret location to meet
  3. Keeping a personal or alternative phone on you at all times
  4. Memorising phone numbers of friends, family, your doctors or DV shelters nearby
  5. Making a list of essential items to pack, such as identity documents, money and any personal items you don’t want to lose
  6. Taking an extra set of car keys in case your partner takes away your usual ones
  7. Taking any medical items you need (although your doctor can help with these once you’re safe)
  8. Changing your passwords on all devices and media so you can’t be hacked or located
  9. Making a copy of any electronic documents or files you need and keeping them on a memory stick. These can include any evidence of abuse or violence, such as text messages, threatening notes, photos of injuries etc.

For further guidance, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247.

What if I don’t have money?

 There are many shelters who can help. They often pay for you to get there and will provide basic items if you’ve had to leave in a hurry. They often provide food and child care too.

You can find your nearest shelter by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247

Where can I go?

If family or friends are out of the question, don’t worry, you still have somewhere to go. A domestic violence or woman’s shelter will provide you with a safe place away from your abuser. They will help you take your next steps, including a longer-term housing solution. You may also be offered counselling, support groups, job training, legal help and child care.

You can find your nearest shelter by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247

Surviving the Abuse

The world and the law has changed. Coercive control: an act or patterns of acts such as assault, threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten someone is now a criminal offence.8 You do not have to suffer in silence. You do not have to wonder if your suffering is worthy of being called abuse. Your self-worth, your happiness, your choice to walk away from a situation that makes you unhappy is your right.  Your value isn’t decided by someone else. Only you get to define that. So, wherever you are on your journey, remember:

You are more.

Abusive Relationship

 

 

References:

  1. Ref: Living without abuse
  2. Ref: Homicide stats from the Office of National Statistics
  3. Ref: How are victims and perpetrators related? From the Office of National Statistics
  4. Ref: Homeless link article: Women’s Hidden Homelessness
  5. Ref: Bridges to Recovery: Can Emotional Abuse Cause PTSD?
  6. Ref: The BMJ: Doctors need training to response to domestic violence, NICE guidance says
  7. Ref: http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
  8. Ref: Women’s aid: Women’s Aid welcomes coercive control law

 

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