Trigger Warning: There are stories and comments within this article that may cause some upset.
In a world where privacy is a valued luxury, domestic abuse is an affair kept behind closed doors. As a result, it is often incredibly difficult to identify and prevent. Victims are often unable to seek help or are sometimes completely unaware that they are being subject to psychological abuse. With such a fine line between lovingly protective and obsessively controlling behaviour, psychological abuse is very difficult to identify. Quench conducted a survey of 83 participants to get some views on the prevalence of psychological abuse and how to prevent it.
The idea that domestic abuse is merely physical is becoming something of the past. But what lead people to this mind set in the first place?
Quench’s survey reveals a lot about what people consider to be psychological abuse and how it can be combatted. Out of the 72 people that answered on their experiences with physical abuse, 23% said they had been subject to physical violence whereas 48% of people admitted to being the victim of emotional and psychological abuse in a relationship. Here is what some of our participants said about their experiences:
“I became a victim of emotional abuse at a young age, back then I didn’t see it because I was so young and new to being in a relationship. It got to the point where I’d feel guilty for even having friends.”
“I feel like domestic abuse is characterised solely by physicality. My experience with abuse was purely psychological- and I didn’t recognise I was being abused until I couldn’t recognise myself any longer.”
“My ex girlfriend was extremely possessive. She was very controlling over who I spent time with and how I spent that time and would often go through my phone without my permission.”
Our participants highlight the kinds of psychologically abusive behaviour that exists in relationships. Jealousy and over-protectiveness seem to be the main issues that arise. Having said that, many participants note how they were unaware of psychological abuse until it was too late. What may appear to be a sign of love and concern can be confused with more malicious actions of psychological control. This lack of awareness surrounding psychological abuse corresponds with the lack of support that participants believe is available to victims of domestic abuse. 62% of people said that they do not believe there is enough support available for victims. Whilst some believe “there aren’t enough support centres where victims of domestic violence can go and feel safe,” some people argue that “charities and support groups exist – you just have to be willing to seek them out.”
Is the key to tackling domestic abuse, then, a matter of information and education? One person claims that there should be more education on domestic abuse at a school level: ‘there is some awareness of psychological abuse within public media, such as TV shows. But I do not think there is enough that reaches teenagers and young adults.” On the contrary, many also believe that information about domestic abuse is something we should all be working on: “there should be societal measures to increase a base awareness of what constitutes domestic abuse, so victims of it realise they are being abused.”
“I feel like domestic abuse is characterised solely by physicality. My experience with abuse was purely psychological and I didn’t recognise I was being abused until I couldn’t recognise myself any longer.”
As an issue that seems to be better understood with age, psychological abuse appears to be an issue that affects younger generations in relationships. We spoke to Cardiff University to see what they do to support students who experience domestic abuse. The university has teamed up with local charity, Atal y Fro to create a new campaign on campus called TALK: Tell, Advise, Listen and Keep Safe. Their partnership culminated in a designated officer as a point of contact for those who feel they are the victim of domestic abuse. In addition, there have reportedly been 140 staff from the university trained in how to conscientiously deal with students who feel they are the target of abuse. The university told us ‘since the launch of the project in September, the Independent Adviser has received six self-referrals’. This approach, therefore, seems to be working well to combat the issue. These numbers indicate victims’ abilities to come forward and speak out in a safe environment. The university strongly encourage any students who feel they are the target of domestic abuse — violent or psychological — to come forward and speak to the Student Support Services:
We would encourage any student experiencing, or who has been a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence to talk to Student Support Services or to contact the Independent Adviser, Julie Grady on 07787 508719 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whilst services seem to help with the immediate danger and hostility, it is inevitable for victims to live on with the emotional trauma of being psychologically abused. It is this which makes domestic abuse so dangerous. For the time being, domestic abuse remains an issue which is very much ‘behind closed doors’. We are a society that values privacy to a dangerous level, compromising the safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable.