What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour where one person controls their partner, ex partner or family member, using different kinds of abuse. In the UK one in four women and one in six men experience domestic abuse during their lifetime.
Every week in the UK, an average of three women are killed by a partner or ex-partner.
Domestic abuse can take many forms, including:
|Physical||This can include hitting, kicking, grabbing, shaking, shoving, preventing someone from leaving the room, or threatening physical violence.|
|Sexual||This can include any non-consensual sexual activity, coerced consent, sexual shaming or using family planning as a tool of abuse.|
|Emotional||This includes constant criticism, ridiculing, belittling, minimizing the effects of abuse.|
|Psychological||This includes isolation from friends and family, gas-lighting, or “mind-games” and projecting blame onto the victim.|
|Financial||This includes preventing someone from working, or forcing them to work but keeping control of the money, making someone account for every penny spent, coerced debt, or withholding money in order to control the victim.|
|Harmful Practices (like FGM or HBV)||This can include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) so-called honour based violence (HBV) forced marriage, dowry abuse or any use of traditional practices as a tool of abuse.|
|Stalking or Harassment||This can include tracking someone through their phone (or their child’s phone) stalking through social media or in real life, sending unwanted or threatening messages. These behaviours can be signs of escalating risk from an abuser.|
|Post-separation Abuse||This includes any abuse which occurs after separation. Child contact or the family court system are often used as tools of post separation abuse. Post separation abuse can be extremely dangerous and harmful.|
|Spiritual Abuse||Using someone’s faith or spirituality as a tool of abuse. This can include forcing someone to follow religious practices against their will, preventing someone from practicing their religion or ridiculing their beliefs, or using a twisted form of religious teachings in order to gain and maintain control over another person, or to coerce someone to forgive or remain with their abuser.|
All of domestic abuse is about control. Some domestic abuse includes physical violence, but many perpetrators of domestic abuse do not use physical violence if they can control their victim in other ways.
Research shows that people with a religious faith experience domestic abuse at the same rates as people who are not religious, but that religious people tend to stay with their abusive partner longer.
Faith can be a source of support for people experiencing abuse, but it can also create barriers and difficulties. Some perpetrators will use their victim’s religious beliefs in their abuse. This is spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is very serious and can include:
- Forcing a victim against their will to observe religious or spiritual practices that they don’t believe in.
- Preventing a victim from observing religious or spiritual practices that they do believe in, or ridiculing their religious or spiritual beliefs.
- Using a twisted form of the victim’s religious teaching or scripture to control them, justify abusive behaviour or pressure the victim to stay with their abuser.
- Using religious or spiritual teaching as an excuse to carry out harmful behaviour.
Many support services don’t explore the role of religion or faith in experiences of domestic abuse. Some survivors find it helpful to have a safe space where they can explore the role of their faith in their experiences of abuse.