The term domestic abuse as opposed to domestic violence is meant to encompass the wider forms of suffering over and above physical injuries which women (and men) are exposed to from partners. Many people are in ‘unhealthy’ relationships; that does not necessarily equate to being involved in an abusive relationship but confusion may occur if the definition of this crime is broadened. Would ‘domestic abuse’ rather ‘domestic violence’ mean the criminalization of bad relationships and remove focus from the true nature of this crime? Is it simple semantics or would broadening definitions from ‘domestic violence’ to ‘domestic abuse’ encourage changes in society’s perception of domestic violence and who precisely is likely to be involved?
According to the dictionary, abuse is “v. 1. use to bad effect or for a bad purpose 2. treat with cruelty or violence 3. address in an insulting and offensive way” whilst violence is: “n. 1. behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill 2. strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force” Being offensive and cruel can, however, cause harm – particularly if there is a physical element implied or if there is a history of physical harm following on from, or alongside, verbal insults. There are interesting subdivisions of both the terms ‘abuse’ and ‘violence’. For example, in research undertaken by the Home Office, definitions of domestic violence were dependent on victims’ interpretations. If various agencies use different terms, how it is possible to specify what is, or is not, unacceptable behavior and thus whether such behavior constitutes a criminal offense.
Domestic abuse at its core involves one person exercising controlling behavior over their intimate partner. The abuser may be possessive, jealous and accusatory. He may stalk her. He may blame his partner for his behavior. The abuser will often try to increase his control by isolating his partner from her family and her friends.
He will use verbal violence (her fault), or emotional abuse, in an attempt to maintain a relationship of unequal power. He threatens her with poverty or loss of her children if she leaves him. He controls the money. If he senses he is losing control of her, he may escalate the verbal violence to punching walls and other menacing behavior. If that fails to control her, physical violence against her person is only one step away. After all, in his world order, he owns her.
Physical abuse cannot only hurt you physically but it can also affect you mentally. Forcing yourself to believe that their behavior is temporary is unhealthy. This can drive you away from family and friends if you do not catch their behavior in the beginning. Many women fear that their husbands will only hurt them more if anyone knew about the abuse so long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses are worn a lot to conceal bruising and scars. If you know someone in this predicament, do not ignore the signs, you must help them, if you can, right away.
Domestic abuse affects many people and if you have children it can be a devastating state of affairs for them as well. Physical, verbal or negligent abuse can be very damaging not only physically but mentally as well and many women have to deal with the consequences of that long after the relationship has ended. In some cases the relationship never ends and it can be devastating, so it is important to get help if you need it.