The Reality of Domestic Abuse
Whenever the term “domestic abuse” is mentioned, the image which usually comes to mind is that of a battered woman with a defeated look and bruises all over her body. Even though that is true in many cases, domestic violence comes in many different forms and might often be very difficult to spot. The Office for National Statistics reveals that 1.4 million people from England and Wales have experienced domestic abuse in the year 2021 (Elkin). In reality the number of people who are victims of domestic violence might be way higher as many cases of abuse go unreported due to various reasons. It is of utmost importance for people to be able to recognise different cues connoting that an individual is a victim of domestic abuse so that they are able to provide help and support.
Common Characteristics of Domestic Violence
In order to gain a better understanding of domestic violence, it is essential to look into the various ways in which it could occur. Section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines domestic abuse as consisting of “physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; psychological, emotional or other abuse” (Queen’s Printer). Looking into physical abuse, this relates to any unwarranted physical harm caused by one party to another, no matter if it leaves any visible marks or not. When it comes to sexual abuse, it consists of one party forcing or pressuring another party to participate in any form of sexual activity without their consent. Moreover, “violent or threatening behaviour” relates to one party making any threat to the physical, mental or economic state of another party or those around them. As for “controlling or coercive behaviour”, it is connected to any actions through which one party tries to manipulate or force another party to act to their liking, often constricting their choices, freedom and isolating them from other people (Queen’s Printer). It seems that a victim might get distanced from their loved ones as a result of abuse. Additionally, when it comes to economic abuse, section 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines it as one party’s actions having a negative impact on another party’s ability to “acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or obtain goods or services” (Queen’s Printer). It seems that economic abuse relates to one party making any threat or causing any harm to another party’s economic situation. Furthermore, “psychological, emotional” abuse refers to any type of behaviour which has a negative effect on the mental health of a party, be it through verbal or physical abuse (Queen’s Printer). The provided is not an exhaustive list of abusive behaviour but it reveals common characteristics of it. It can be surmised that domestic violence might come in the often imagined form of physical abuse but it might also consist of any type of actions which threaten the mental health and economic situation of a person.
Men as Victims of Domestic Abuse
When people think of domestic abuse, they usually associate women with the victim position. The Office for National Statistics reveals that out of all domestic abuse cases in 26 police forces 73% of victims are female (Elkin). However, even though the majority of victims are women, it should not be disregarded that men can also suffer from domestic abuse. The Centre for Social Justice reveals that “The social stigma surrounding domestic abuse is even stronger when the victim is a man and the perpetrator is a woman” (Pirret). It is also revealed that men often face “hostility and incredulity” when it comes to them trying to get help for being domestically abused (Pirret). It seems that when it is men facing domestic violence, people are less prone to believing and trying to help them. Moreover, men knowing that they might be ridiculed for trying to reach out about their situation, might cause them to not speak up and continue enduring abuse. It is clear that the stigma associated with men being victims of domestic abuse causes them to be less likely to seek help.
There are various reasons why victims of domestic violence do not reach out for support. Women’s aid reveals one of them to be fear (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). Victims might be scared of their abuser finding out about them seeking help, as the violent individual might get angry and cause even more harm. It seems that sometimes fear of certain negative consequences prevails over the desire to seek support. Women’s aid also reveals that another reason why domestic violence victims do not speak up is their isolation from people around them (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). It has been established that an abuser might be acting in a controlling manner and might be trying to isolate their victims from their family and friends. That might cause the victim to feel as if they have no one to turn to for help. In addition, as established, the stigma surrounding domestic abuse victims might cause them to be hesitant when considering seeking help (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). People might feel embarrassed and ashamed of ending up in such a situation and might often blame themselves (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). Furthermore, another reason why victims stay in abusive situations might be because it seems like the most practical decision (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). For example, victims might choose to stay with their abuser, as they might be dependent on the violent individual for monetary resources (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). In addition, if a victim has a child with their abuser, they might be more reluctant to try and escape the violent situation they are in, as they might not want to compromise the stability of their child’s home life (“Why Don’t Women Leave?”). It is clear that there are many factors which might prevent victims of domestic violence from trying to seek help and escape the situation they are in.
It is often easy for people to tell victims of domestic abuse that they should just leave the unhealthy and dangerous situation they are in. However, as it has been established, there are various reasons and conflicting emotions which might prevent victims from seeking help. It is important for people to refrain from judging victims of domestic violence for staying with their abuser, as their situation usually is way more complicated than it seems. Instead, individuals should aim to provide support whenever it is possible but have to be careful, in their attempt to help, not to accidentally worsen the situation of the vulnerable party.
Resources which might be beneficial for domestic abuse victims in order to get support include different phone applications and hotlines which are easily accessible on the UK government’s website (“Domestic Abuse: How to Get Help.”). The UK government’s website also provides information on various establishments like pharmacies, shops and restaurants which are prepared to provide help to domestic violence victims at any point (“Domestic Abuse: How to Get Help.”). In addition, different pro bono clinics might be able to provide victims with necessary legal services (“Domestic Abuse: How to Get Help.”). It is also essential for people to gain knowledge on the topic of domestic abuse and various aspects of it in order to be able to recognise it and provide help.
“Domestic Abuse: How to Get Help.” GOV.UK, 11 Nov. 2021,
Elkin, Meghan. Domestic Abuse Prevalence and Trends, England and Wales – Office for
National Statistics. 24 Nov. 2021,
Pirret, James. “Why Are Men Often Overlooked as Victims of Domestic Abuse?” The Centre
for Social Justice, 14 June 2022,
Queen’s Printer of Acts of Parliament. Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
“Why Don’t Women Leave?” Women’s Aid, 11 Oct. 2022,
Fatima Halawi is an Assistant Manager for the Queen Mary Pro Bono Society’s Public Relations Department