Domestic abuse is not a once off event, but rather a pattern which escalates over time, and includes multiple forms of abuse: emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.
We often hear from women that what felt like positive attention and attentiveness at the beginning of a relationship, turned into negative, controlling behaviour as the relationship became more established and it was harder to leave.
Abusers deliberately isolate a woman from family and friends, break down her confidence and independence, and tell her it is her fault that he is doing this. He might constantly criticise her, her efforts in the relationship, and how she does everything, call her names, tell her that she is worthless. This is called emotional abuse, and it can be so constant and relentless that it makes a woman doubt her own instincts that it is wrong, feel ashamed of what is happening to her, and blame herself. There were 10,653 disclosures of emotional abuse to the Women’s Aid Helpline last year.
Other examples include abusers not allowing a woman any privacy inside or outside the home, and monitoring her communication. You can read more about emotional abuse here.
Abusers also use physical force and the threat of physical violence to further control women. A caller to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline might start by saying,
‘He would never hit me, but…’
and then describe behaviour including threats to kill her, her loved ones, or himself; physically blocking her from leaving a room; pushing her down on to the bed or other furniture; putting his hand on her neck without squeezing, which all constitute the use of physical force as deliberately controlling and intimidating to her. We also hear from women who have experienced life-threatening physical assaults and beatings, and are sometimes blocked by their abuser from seeking necessary medical attention. You can read more about physical abuse here. There were 2,470 disclosures of physical abuse to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline last year.
Sexual abuse within a relationship is another way that abusers take away a woman’s confidence and make her feel ashamed. It can include rape, sexual assault and sexual coercion, which means not feeling like you have a choice or a say about whether you have sex and what sexual activities you take part in. Sexual assault and abuse within a relationship are a crime. If a woman is raped, we would always encourage her to link in with a local rape crisis centre and explore with her if she feels comfortable reporting the crime to the Gardai. There were 595 disclosures of sexual abuse to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline last year, including 176 cases of rape by an intimate partner.
When women experience financial abuse, they can be left completely financially dependent, or totally destitute. Where the abuser is the bread winner, the woman may only have access to money through him, and the abuser uses this to control her. When the woman is the breadwinner, all of her earnings may go to household expenses, and if the abuser has any earnings these are kept personal to him. Both situations leave a woman without extra money to save up resources to leave the relationship and find new accommodation. There were 1,746 disclosures of financial abuse to the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline last year. You can read more about financial abuse here.
If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these forms of abuse, you can call the Women’s Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 anytime between 10am and 10pm, 7 days a week. We will listen, believe and support you.