DOMESTIC VIOLENCE is the emotional, sexual and physical abuse which occurs within the home by partners or known others. Most abuse is overwhelmingly
IT CAN TAKE MANY FORMS
PHYSICAL: beatings, slaps, punches, kicks, pushing and shoving.
SEXUAL: rape, making someone think she's inadequate, forcing her to perform and/or receive unwanted acts.
EMOTIONAL: playing mind games, making someone think she's crazy, humiliation, threatening suicide, making someone feel stupid, put downs, criticisms (eg. of cooking, cleaning, housework, parenting, job, friends...etc).
INTIMIDATION: destroying property, abusing pets, making someone afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, threats.
ECONOMIC: stopping someone getting or keeping a job, taking her money.
ISOLATION: controlling what someone does, who she sees and talks to, where she goes, checking phone numbers, checking car mileage.
Children & Domestic Violence
Many will have experienced abuse themselves or may have witnessed abuse of their mother or siblings, and whether their experience of the abuse is direct or indirect it will leave them feeling scared and confused. It is now widely recognised that even if children do experience the violence directly - they will be affected by it. Children respond to their experiences in many different ways. Many children do not show any obvious signs in their behaviour, but it is unrealistic to think they have not been affected at all. Children may arrive at Leeway therefore, feeling scared and confused, and it can be a difficult time with lots of change, having left behind friends, family, their favorite toys and pets etc. However it is also important to recognise that leaving, is also important in helping children overcome the effects of the violence. It is important that they are given the chance to talk about their experiences and come to terms with what has happened in order to enable them to move forward in their lives and learn to build positive relationships with other children in the refuge.
Cycles of abuse
It is a common misconception that children of battered women grow up to be batterers or victims of domestic violence themselves. However, no conclusive evidence exists to support the ‘inter-generational transmission of violence’ thesis or to show that there is a ‘cycle of violence’. (Mullender & Morley 1994).
The cycle of abuse theory is a very over simplified argument. Not only is there no evidence to support it, but it is not consistent with the facts about abuse;
o abuse is predominantly experienced by women and girls and perpetrated by men.
o as many as 1 in 4 girls experience sexual abuse in childhood and 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence as an adult.
o A survey on behalf of Islington Council in London found that 63% of men said they would be violent to their partner in certain circumstances.
o If it was as straight forward as saying that anyone who has been abused will grow up to be an abuser, then you would expect the majority of abusers to be women.
So do women look for abusive partners? A variation on this theory is that boys who are abused will grow up to be abusers and women who have been abused ‘look for’ abusive men. Once again this is contrary to the experience of many of the women and children who live in refuges. Domestic violence can affect the ways in which someone forms relationships, but this does not mean that they will inevitably repeat the abuse.
It is important that the messages we give to children do not reinforce the cycle of abuse –
o boys need to know that it is not inevitable that they will grow up to be abusers and
o girls don’t have to grow up feeling that it is their fault if a man is abusive towards them.
Women’s Aid aims to enable children to understand their experiences, to make choices and find different ways of building relationships based on respect and mutual understanding.
The cycle of abuse theory not only ignors the impact of leaving the domestic violence, it also denies the experience of many people – There are many women who experience domestic violence, who have never experienced violence in their home life either as a child or as an adult. Similarly there are many men and women who have been abused, or have witnessed domestic violence in their childhood who do not become perpetrators of abuse.