This week, controversial American 'pick up artist' Julien Blanc posted a domestic abuse chart on his Twitter page calling it a 'checklist' for 'how to make her stay'. The diagram was originally designed by a domestic abuse charity, intended to help women identify when they are being abused, and has sections entitled 'use male privilege' and 'use isolation'. Though it is horrifying that this man is airing his views in public, I am very glad to see this all making front page news. Because every single person should know what abuse looks like. Abusers get their hooks in when victims aren't prepared, so make sure you can spot the early signs! Anyone can be a victim, but forewarned is forearmed:
Julien Blanc's post has now been hidden online, but it came as minister Lynne Featherstone urged Home Secretary Theresa May to ban Blanc from coming to Britain. There is an online petition gathering pace with almost 150000 signatures as I write... sign here https://www.change.org/p/uk-home-office-deny-julien-blanc-a-uk-visa
Victims of abuse will often report that friends and family even thought an abuser "seemed so charming". That's what makes them so dangerous. Typically male, abusers are master liars and manipulators. They have to be or they wouldn't be able to hook a victim in the first place, or carry out their bullying without others intervening.
'Refuge' the domestic abuse charity, is a lifeline for the frightened and confused victims of abuse, because even police constables dealing with domestic incident all to often believe the lies of the abuser, instead of the typically muddled and fearful victim, when the victim needs them most.
Rachel Pain, Professor of Social Geography, at Durham University, describes domestic abuse as "everyday terrorism" because it has so much in common with terrorism. Victims of both crimes live in constant fear, while the criminals offend to exert control. She argued that government spends too little money on tackling domestic abuse and far more on counter-terrorism, even though terrorism affects far fewer people. "In most people's view, the two are completely different forms of violence," she said. "But they share quite a lot in common. The central part is that domestic abuse also functions largely through fear. We need to get away from this idea that it's all about physical violence." She added: "The one thing about offenders [in both domestic abuse and terrorism] is there's a motivation behind the violence. "In international terrorism, they're trying to exert some form of control. He [the terrorist] does that through fear. That's an important parallel."
Domestic abuse forms a large and growing part of police work. Cuts to domestic abuse services come as statistics show a significant rise in incidents. Refuge, a charity that works with the police to protect and help victims, is seeing some of it's services shut down completely, and yet this is a problem that costs lives. Every week, two women are killed by a partner or former partner in England and Wales. Three a week will commit suicide because of the misery of living with an abuser. 30 a week will attempt suicide. Abusers are skilled manipulators. Often very charming, they can often smooth talk their way through legal barriers and present a very credible front, even leading the victim to believe it's their own fault that they are being abused. But the charm hides a chilly selfishness designed to control and torment.
Many people aren't even aware of exactly what domestic abuse is. Most do not even realise that mental and emotional bullying is illegal. It's usually not until things get physical, that people in abusive relationships seek help. Refuge, the domestic abuse and violence charity, states that "If a woman is forced to change her behaviour because she is frightened of her partner then she is being abused.". Women with careers are statistically more likely to be victims because they threaten their partner's masculinity and power.
Refuge have helped a great many women, and have spread awareness, but they need more funding. In Sept 2012, new stalking laws provided police and victims of domestic abuse with a little more protection, but there is so much more needed.
The police regularly fail to spot the warning signs, and there are a number of cases currently before the Police Complaints Commission as a result.
"Psychological and emotional abuse is not generally part of the rhetoric of abuse - it's more focused on the physical," says a spokeswoman for The Women's Resource Centre (WRC). She described such abuse as "invisible".
Anna Larke, ex girlfriend of comedian Justin Lee Collins told the court that she felt that she had been "brainwashed" by Collins, a phrase that Pat Craven, an-ex probation officer and head of the Freedom Programme, which offers information to women in abusive relationships, says is extremely common in cases of abuse. "Abusive men hypnotise," she says. "The women only really begin to become aware of what's happening once the violence begins." But by the time the relationship turns violent, many women may have already endured years of mental and emotional abuse. Things often don't get violent until the women stands up for herself after a sustained period of bullying and abuse.
Many people draw conclusions that a lot of women put up with abuse because they have some inherent vulnerability. Anna Larke was depicted as a "recovering alcoholic" and a self-harmer. But Craven points out that one of the biggest myths surrounding abuse is that a "certain kind of women are attracted to abusers". It is a very common feature of abusers to paint their victims as mentally unstable or drug users in order to increase their credibility.
Annie Munson, manager at Women's Aid Centre, a refuge in Bury St Edmunds for women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, says she has seen an increase in cases of mental abuse.
Men are becoming "cleverer", she says, in finding ways to exert control. "More men are realising they can't get away with it when they send their partners to the school gates with a black eye. In this more sophisticated age, it's hard to quantify if someone goes to ask for help [for mental bullying]. It's hard to explain and abusers know that." But she says that more needs to be done to highlight the increase in this type of abuse. "If nothing else, (the media attention focussed on) Anna Larke will have done a lot of women a favour."
Domestic abuse is particularly dangerous, because it's victims are so isolated. The perpetrators, usually men, tend to have a charming front, that makes it near impossible to detect that anything is wrong. The blame for any problems will be shifted to the victim by the abuser. Justin Lee Collins portrayed his ex as psychologically unstable, and without her recording of his tirade, it is unlikely she would have won in court. It is quite common for the police even, to disbelieve the victim, because the abuser is often a practised liar and charmer, and sometimes even fails to believe that there is anything wrong with his behaviour if it doesn't include violence. But controlling a woman, damaging a women's possessions, literally stripping her of her sense of self by destroying her things, cutting off her contacts outside the abusive one, threatening to harm her, her friendships or her loved ones or pets, controlling her through intimidation, financially, emotionally, it is all abuse, and all deeply damaging. In fact victims report that mental scars take far longer to heal than physical ones. The criticisms levelled at them affect them for many years after the abuse stops, they sometimes suffer PTSD and have difficulty even making simple decisions.
The aim of domestic abusers, whether conscious or unconscious - is to take control of the victims life. Domestic abuse is an abuse of power - it's all about power and control.
Here's a checklist for spotting the signs of domestic abuse - IS THIS YOU?
•Is your partner excessively jealous and possessive?
•Are they charming one minute and aggressive the next?
•Do they stop you from seeing your family and friends?
•Are you constantly being criticised and put down in public?
•Is your money being controlled by them?
•Are you pressured to have sex when you don't want to?
•Do you get told what to wear, who to see, where to go, what to think?
•Are you starting to walk on eggshells to avoid making them angry?