The Blog

Domestic Abuse - Terrorism in the Home

We live in a country that prides itself on it's freedom and equality, and yet thousands of women live here in terror. Domestic Abuse has recently been described as "everyday terrorism" after a study of 18 victims in the UK led to the conclusion that domestic abuse is similar in many ways.

Victims of both crimes live in constant fear, while the criminals offend to exert control, Prof Pain said. 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."

Justin Lee Collins recieved only community service for his sustained abuse against his then girlfriend, Anna Larke. What message does that send out? 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 have 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 Commision 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 partner of justin Lee Collins, told the court that she felt that she had been "brainwashed" by Collins, a phrase that Craven 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, Anna Larke will have done a lot of women a favour."

Domestic abuse is particularly dangerous, because it's victims are so isolated. The perpertrators, 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 behavior if it doesn't include violence. But controlling a woman, damaging a women's possesions, 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. Infact 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.

A checklist for spotting the signs of domestic abuse

•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?

There are many different ways of being abusive. Here are a few examples:

•Damaging a woman's possessions

•Smashing up the furniture

•Threatening to harm or kill the pets

•Threatening to kidnap or get custody of the children if she leaves

•Locking her out of the house during an argument

•Terrorising her by driving fast or through red lights at high speed because he knows it frightens her