Information and Support for Women AND Men
It is staggering to think that here in the UK, nearly 2 million people suffer some kind of domestic abuse in their relationship. According to Domestic Abuse Charity Women’s Aid, 1.3 million are female victims and 600,000 are male.
What’s even more staggering is that each year, more than 100,000 people in the UK are at high and imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse and seven women a month are murdered or seriously injured as a result. I’m sure that you will agree these are shocking and sobering statistics.
Before I go any further, if you are living in my hometown of Southend-on-Sea and are in an abusive relationship needing urgent practical help and advice, please contact SOS Domestic Abuse Projects.
Is my relationship abusive? The Warning Signs
One thing that I have learnt, both from working with victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse and from my own personal experience, is that we are not always aware that behaviours we are either experiencing as the victim, or using as the perpetrator, are classed as abusive, especially in the early days when a couple are going through "the honeymoon period." There is still a misguided belief that a relationship is only abusive if violence is used, but there are so many behaviours which fall under the Domestic Abuse umbrella.
Perhaps you are at the start of a new relationship and everything seems a bit too good to be true? Perhaps your new Partner is showering you with gifts, bombarding you with texts and phone calls, wants to see you every single day and part of you is feeling completely blown away by it all but maybe another part of you, your gut instinct perhaps, is feeling a little uneasy? Then I would urge you to read this blog entry by author Pat Craven showing the Warning Signs to look out for in the early days of a relationship.
The Freedom Programme, a domestic abuse awareness programme run in groups throughout the UK is based on the book Living with the Dominator by Pat Craven. This book and the programme provide essential knowledge on abusive relationships and they both help raise awareness of how we can be drawn into this type of relationship in the first place, thus hopefully stopping you from making the same mistake twice.
I read this book myself some years ago and it was incredibly emotional to realise that for a part of my life, I had also been drawn into a coercive relationship. Despite the fact that I had a gut feeling right at the start that something wasn’t quite right, this person met me at a vulnerable time in my life where what little confidence and self esteem I had was AWOL. I was a single parent and at a stage where life was incredibly hard - I was so tired of coping alone, I just wanted someone to look after me.
So they came along when I was lonely and desperate for company. They absolutely swept me off my feet within the first two weeks, bringing gifts, sending constant texts, making declarations that they'd never felt like this before, that they'd never met anyone like me before, wanted to see me all the time - all balm to soothe my battered self esteem. I allowed this person to put me on a pedestal which felt great........ for about two months.......... that was when they started to pull me right off that pedestal little by little with their actions. Actions which were subtle to spot at first, but which by the end, were so obviously used to manipulate and control.
These relationships can be so emotionally destructive, they can leave you feeling a shadow of your former self. I was one of the lucky ones, I found the strength to leave but it still took over two years. Some, however, find it impossible to leave. If you have ever found yourself wondering "why don't they just leave?" then follow this link to the Women's Aid website, where the many complex reasons are set out in plain English.
If you have been with your partner for some time now and their behaviour or your own behaviour is affecting your relationship, then take a look at this pdf taken from The Deluth Model, a well recognised Domestic Intervention Programme based in the United States. These pdf's show some of the behaviours that are classed as Domestic Abuse. You may find them painfully familiar. The second page of the pdf also shows “The Friend” - a great example of an equal partner. If you recognise the behaviours of "The Friend" then congratulations, you are in a healthy relationship!
The Change Project - Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme
During my career, I have had the privilege of working from both perspectives of an abusive relationship, helping to support both the victims of domestic abuse through counselling and now working with male perpetrators in Southend-on-Sea who want to stop being abusive to their partners.
As well as my private practice, I currently facilitate the Respect Accredited Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme, a behaviour change programme run on behalf of The Change Project, a domestic abuse prevention organisation.
Their Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme is aimed at men who want to stop being abusive to their partners. If you would like more information on how to access this support, just click here to visit The Change Project website. The programme runs from 4 locations in Essex - Southend-on-Sea. Basildon, Chelmsford and Colchester. Programmes also run in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.
Change also delivers individual programmes which work with abuse perpetrated by women and within same sex relationships.
How can Counselling help with my Abusive Relationship?
Counselling can be extremely effective in exploring the many complexities surrounding an abusive relationship. In my experience, both the victims AND the perpetrators are re-acting old beliefs and learnt behaviours from their own upbringing. Mix in low self esteem and low self worth and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Counselling can help to understand how you have ended up being a victim or a perpetrator, helping you to look at how your past experiences can influence your current decisions. You can develop a clearer sense of who you really are and why you have managed to end up in such a destructive relationship. They say ignorance is bliss but counselling works at raising your awareness of yourself and your decisions to the point where you can no longer plead ignorant to abuse and finally have to pull your big girl/boy pants on and
make some sensible choices when it comes to healing yourself and your Partner / Family.
If you would like to have a brief chat to find out more about how Counselling can help you please contact me for an informal chat.