By Guest Blogger Allison Dillon
ACCORDING to recent research estimates, one in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime. The sad truth is, not all of these people will know they are victims and never seek help.
When we hear the words “Domestic Abuse,” our minds more often than not immediately turn to physical violence such as hitting and shoving. However, domestic violence has been officially classified as “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been in a relationship together, or between family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”. This means that domestic abuse is not just physical acts of aggression, as I myself, have recently learned.
I have just begun attending help sessions with a domestic violence team to address the biggest issue in my life at the moment, my husband’s controlling and manipulative behaviour. For as long as I can remember, I had people telling me that my husband, whom we’ll call “Mr. X” to respect his privacy, was controlling me. I always brushed off the comments, denying that he was controlling me in any way. It’s only now that the relationship is over that I realise how right everyone was.
Not everything was noticeable to me right away, but since I’ve started getting help and talking with professionals, I realised just how much hold Mr. X really has had over my life. The controlling behaviour ranged from little things, like me not being able to lean on an escalator rail due to his fear of heights, to bigger issues, such as his control over the finances forcing me to ask for money and making me detail exactly what it was for. He has had more control over me than I ever realised and it shames me to admit that I was so oblivious to it all.
Since my family all live back home in Australia, I have been working with a support worker for several months to try and meet new people and get out of the house more. In our most recent meeting, I mentioned everything to her about the situation at home and Mr. X’s behaviour towards me. She immediately referred me to the domestic violence team. They phoned me within 24 hours and did an over the phone risk assessment. I scored medium risk, I couldn’t believe it!
Here I was thinking that what he did wasn’t as bad as everyone told me it was, that I was making a mountain out of a mole hill, how could I be at medium risk of domestic abuse?! But after my first appointment, I was seeing things so much clearer. It was as though the blindfold had been removed, and I could see the marionette strings attached to my limbs and Mr. X, the puppet master, pulling at them.
It was such a relief to talk to someone who was completely unbiased about the whole situation, and to have them tell me straight that what Mr. X has been doing is very wrong. She hit the nail on the head with how I’ve been feeling too, that he has been chipping away at my self-esteem and my self-confidence until all that was left was a subservient and obedient wife. I’m now working with them to build up my self-esteem once again, reclaim my independence and to get me and my daughter out of this environment and into our own home as soon as possible.
My hope when initially writing about domestic abuse and my situation, was to reach out to men and women in similar situations. I wanted to write about it because up until a few days ago, I didn’t feel I was a victim of domestic abuse. I pushed all thoughts of his controlling behaviour aside, dismissing everyone’s comments that it was abuse.
“Abuse was such an ugly word. It’s a word that I immediately linked with physical acts of violence.”
I refused to believe I was in fact a victim of it. I even felt guilty for attending the appointment with the domestic violence team. That somehow, I was in the wrong for going behind Mr. X’s back and talking to a professional about his behaviour towards me. I want it to be known that domestic abuse is not just physical, it’s emotional too.
I wanted to reach out to anyone in a similar situation and say that you’re not alone. It’s not ok for your partner to be making you feel isolated, worthless, unimportant and unappreciated. That you are important! You do deserve to be happy! That people do care about you!
While the signs of physical abuse are more commonly known, the signs of emotional abuse are somewhat blurred. If you’re unsure if your partner or family member is being emotionally abusive, some of the things to look out for include:
- Threatening behaviour (threatens you)
- Attempts at undermining your self-esteem by insulting you or putting you down
- Controls you, for example by stopping you from doing things, seeing people or insists on knowing everything you’re doing throughout the day.
- Becomes jealous or possessive, for example by reading your messages and/or acting suspicious of friendships.
For me, it took making a new and wonderful friend for me to have the confidence to seek help. I had a support worker that I could turn to and talk things out with, but help can be found in many places. Doctors, midwives and health visitors can all refer you to a domestic violence team, as I have been. There are also helplines as well as non-profit and charity run organisations dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse. I understand that it can be scary to seek help, and that you might feel you’re wasting their time, but even the smallest act of abuse is a serious issue that can grow into something larger.
If you’re with a partner, or have a family member who is controlling and manipulative, you are not in the wrong to seek help. There are always people who will listen and do whatever they can to turn things around for you. You can find more information and helplines through the NHS website. Don’t suffer in silence as I was doing. Remember you’re not alone and you deserve to feel respected and happy.
Allison is a 24 year old Australian mum living in the North West of the UK with her daughter Vala. Allison has recently left her husband due to suffering emotional abuse and has started a blog about her life as a single parent.
You can read more about her Journey on her blog and follow her on social media – the links are below: