No excuse for domestic abuse

Today we start a special series of reports on domestic violence, abuse and coercive control

As we move into a second month of Lockdown 3, charities and organisations are predicting a worrying rise in domestic abuse, violence and coercive control behaviours.

Households are spending more time together than ever before and the pressures of working, home schooling and being indoors throughout the cold, winter months has and will take its toll on many people’s mental, psychological and emotional health.

The lockdown is predicted to last for at least the next few weeks, possibly until April, so we are running this special feature to expose a taboo and sensitive subject that is often silenced or pushed under the carpet.

What is classed as domestic abuse or coercive control? How can you spot the signs for yourself or someone else you know? How can you take care of yourself during this very vulnerable peak in the pandemic? We will be illustrating this complex subject matter with very honest and real stories from South Leeds survivors although all names and any identification have been anonymised.

The Government’s definition of domestic abuse and violence is:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse of those aged 16 who are or have been intimate partners or family members’ regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to the following types of abuse: Psychological; Physical; Sexual; Financial; and Emotional

“Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make the person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

“Coercive behaviour is an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.”

Like Domestic Violence, controlling and coercive behaviour is now against the law and since 2015 can result in imprisonment.

Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police. However, the Office for National Statistics reported last year that the police recorded 259,324 offences flagged as domestic abuse related from March – June 2020 (the first lockdown). This is a massive 18% increase from two years ago. The Home Office states that there were 1.6 million domestic abuse sufferers last year.

So what can controlling or coercive behaviour look like? One myth is that abuse is cultural or gender based. It is not. All perpetrators of abuse have common themes and patterns of behaviour.

  • Power and control is their ultimate motivation
  • Control your money – bank cards, checks bank statements with a fine tooth comb, checks receipts, gives you less money than you need for the household shopping so you are always worried “Will I have enough money to pay for the goods at the till?”
  • Your diet – makes the decisions of what you can eat, where, when depending on their own likes and dislikes. You are often nutritionally and vitamin deficient as a result of missing out on certain food groups.
  • Communication – disapproves of friends and family members and finds fault in them, cuts the telephone line from the main socket when their temper flares in effect cutting you off from the outside world. This is because the perpetrator fears emotional intimacy (friendship, love, care) you may receive from genuine people in your life
  • Outside world – you are strongly discouraged from going out or socialising without him/her because of their own paranoia/fear of you speaking out
  • Timetable and daily regulation – you are silently expected to fit around their timetable to meet all their needs first
  • Non-verbal behaviour – stern looks, follows you around the house, discourage you from having “a voice”, checks your mobile (they know your PIN code or you are not allowed to have one “What have you got to hide?”)

Domestic abuse can manifest itself in so many ways from intimidation to coercion to verbal threats and physical violence.

It is never the victim’s fault because “they asked for it”.

Over the next week, individual circumstances are explored in “This is my story…” and self-care tips for victims assembled.

Where to get help

In an emergency call 999. If you can’t talk press 55 when prompted, the operator will stay on the line with you

Call the Leeds 24 hour domestic abuse phone line on (0113) 246 0401

Ask for “ANI” at any pharmacy offering a Safe Space, including Boots, Superdrug and many independent pharmacies. You will be taken to a private consulting room and offered support

Leeds Women’s Aid run a refuge and offer advice a support:

If you need to travel to take up a refuge place you can travel free by train on the Rail To Refuge scheme

Find more information on the Leeds City Council website here

Other useful organisations:

Behind Closed Doors: Leeds based support for peopole affected by domestic violence and abuse

Refuge: run a freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Respect: run a helpline for male victims of domestic abuse 0808 8010 327

Karma Nirvana support victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriages