In the UK an estimated 7.3 per cent of women, and 3.6 per cent of men experience domestic abuse every year. These statistics are only part of the picture, as so much of domestic abuse goes on behind closed doors and never gets reported to the police.
Why domestic abuse goes unreported
Domestic abuse usually happens between people in close and intimate relationships – whether they are married, in a relationship, or simply dating. Often it can start quite insidiously – small, unrelated incidents which don’t’ add up to what someone may understand as abuse.
That start of a relationship demonstrates the usual loving emotions – the ‘future’ abuser is kind and attentive, helpful and supportive. Any flash of anger or irritation is explained and apologised away. By the time the abuse escalates the behaviour becomes normalised, the living circumstances are interlinked, and the victim has slipped into low self esteem and is frequently gas-lit so they never quite know what is right from wrong.
This then leads into fear and shame. The confusion and gaslighting that a victim goes through is multi layered and complex, causing them to not know or trust their own thoughts and emotions around the situation that they are in.
Seeking help for domestic violence
Reaching out for help is one of the most difficult and painful experiences for anyone undergoing domestic abuse, because it is the end of one road, and the start of another very long, and unsettling road.
While every case is different, there is a set number of legal procedures that are at your disposal to help you pave your way forward and start building a case against someone who has controlled your life for, often, many years. Non-molestation orders, for example, is a legal process that can be granted to an individual who is the victim of harassment and intimidation or living under circumstances of coercive control.
However, before even getting to that point, you need to have an escape plan in place. This can be the most challenging and terrifying of aspects of getting help, as it may be that you have no access to any money, have small children who need feeding and housing, have no where else to go.
Planning your escape may well take time, or it may happen in a split second when you see and recognise an opportunity. There are a few things you need to take into consideration.
- Seek the help and support of a domestic abuse charity or organisation. They will have a wealth of resources that will be able to help you.
- Is there a trusted friend or family member who you know wants to help? Reach out to them.
- Whenever you can get your hands on it, keep a stash of cash hidden somewhere for emergencies. Using a card linked to your abuser’s account will give them control and allow them to see where you are and track your movements. You need to know your location is untraceable.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Make sure that you run towards people who are going to help you.
- At the very least try and have one form of identification on you. This will help in obtaining further financial help.
- Make sure your children’s’ schools know exactly what is happening, and instruct them not to let anyone else pick them up.
- Start talking about your experiences to everyone who will listen. Up until now the lies and secrets will have protected your abuser. Once those floodgates are open they will have no room to hide.