It’s important to understand that domestic abuse is not just about physical violence. Domestic abuse is about power and control. It is a pattern of behaviour. There are many tools and tactics used by an abuser to control a victim and abuse is not always easy to spot.
Some behaviours are dressed up as pseudo-caring behaviour, for example, and some abusers can be very charming and manipulative. In fact, about 51% of victims do not even know that they are being controlled, and if asked, they will defend the perpetrator. This is what is so dangerous and sophisticated about coercive control. It is tantamount to brain washing.
What are some of the behaviours to look out for? Please note that this list is not exhaustive – abusers tailor-make their abusive behaviour to the victim’s behaviour. In other words, it is idiosyncratic:
Using intimidation – making you fearful with looks, gestures, acts, destroying your property, abusing pets, handling weapons in front of you, any behaviour that makes you feel like you are walking on egg shells;
Using emotional abuse – making you feel bad about yourself, putting you down, telling you that you are worthless, name calling, verbal abuse, playing mind games, putting you on mute (the silent treatment), ignoring your needs and opinions or flipping the script on you or shifting responsibility;
Laying down and enforcing rules and regulations – making up rules which you must live by every day. The rules may demean, humiliate, degrade or dehumanize you. It’s like hostage taking;
Using isolation – isolating you from family and friends, monitoring your time, controlling outside activities, preventing you from working or having access to transport, using jealousy to justify actions;
Minimizing, denying, blaming, not taking responsibility – making light of abuse, joking about it, blaming you for it, changing the narrative and flipping the script;
Using child(ren) – making you feel guilty about the child(ren), threats to hurt the child(ren) or take them away from you, using the child(ren) to relay messages;
Using pets – using the family pet(s) to control you, threatening the pet(s);
Using male privilege – using you as a servant, expecting you to do all the household and childcare, being the ‘king of the castle’, defining your roles;
Using financial abuse – including control of finances, preventing you from seeking or keeping a job, making you ask for money, giving you an allowance, taking your money, not allowing you access to family income;
Using coercion and threats – making or carrying out threats, making you do illegal things, threatening to leave you or commit suicide, threatening to post pictures of you or share secrets, threatening to have sex with others, making you drop the charges;
When non-physical tactics and behaviours are no longer effective, the abuser will use physical and and/or sexual abuse to control, instill fear and coerce you. By then behaviours will have escalated.
Using physical abuse – punching, kicking, slapping, pinching, burning, pinning you down, putting hands around the neck, choking, strangling, biting, pulling hair, shoving;
Using sexual abuse – forcing you to have sex, pressuring you, making you have sex with others, taking pictures or videos against your will, threatening to post them, forcing you to watch porn.