What is domestic abuse?

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There are many signs of domestic abuse. The main question is ‘are you afraid of your partner?’ Fear is the main way an abusive partner will control you.
West Lothian Women's Aid believes that causes of domestic abuse lie in historical inequalities which still exist between men and women in our society.
Domestic abuse doesn't happen just once. It is persistent behaviour by a partner or ex-partner which hurts you physically, sexually and/or emotionally. It often gets worse over time.

Another sign of domestic abuse is control. Your partner may be abusing you through controlling and manipulative behaviour, for example, checking up on you, demanding to know where you’ve been and conversations you’ve had.
There may be no bruises, not all abuse is physical. Your partner may deny you housekeeping money or force financial control on you while undermining your ability to cope.
Your partner may put you down, keep you away from friends and family and gradually over time destroy your hopes. You may avoid doing certain things for fear of angering your partner, you may feel that you cannot do anything right or that you deserve to be hurt or abused.

Emotional abuse can be very difficult to recognise. It is subtle and is often overlooked by friends and family and even the person affected may not feel that they are being abused. Emotional abuse can leave deep psychological scars and can seriously damage the self-confidence of the person experiencing the abuse.

Many women try to hide or play down the abuse because they are frightened or ashamed or they think they are to blame for the abuse.  They may also think they have no other options, but there are other organisations which can help with legal issues, housing and financial support and people to talk to about your fears and concerns.
Some key facts:
  • Most perpetrators of domestic abuse are men. Most victims of it are women. Domestic abuse also affects children.
  • One in five women in Scotland experiences domestic abuse at some stage in her life.
  • Domestic abuse can affect any woman regardless of race, class, age, religion, sexuality, ability, income, lifestyle or where she stays.
  • 88% of crimes and offences of domestic abuse and 95% of crimes of indecency (mostly sexual assault) are perpetrated by men against women.


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