It is quite telling that October has passed with low key publicity of National Domestic Violence Awareness. Maybe it demonstrates the 'silent voice of women' perfectly, as although statistics demonstrate one in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, this is still a topic which is misunderstood and often taboo.
Well, it can literally happen in all or any relationships. There is no typical scenario and the statistics of 25% of females being affected, would seem to demonstrate this.
There are many reasons for example jealousy, inferiority but mostly it would seem to be a method of control.
Times of vulnerability may trigger abuse and violence, sometimes that fear may present itself when there is pressure at work, work changes or even during pregnancy.
Clearly bouts of violence and abuse can occur anywhere; however probably the most frequent place will be the home. Often abusers conceal their actions, and evoke that mechanism within the person subject to their abuse.
This list is not comprehensive, but onlookers often wonder why women stay sometimes for years in abusive relationships. The answer is probably that it is not easy to extract oneself from a relationship where there is an imbalance, possibly caused by one of the above factors.
Emotional Ties mean it is difficult to extract oneself from a Stockholm Syndrome like situation. Often blame may be deflected to the injured party, whilst they rifle with not wanting to accept the guilt of failure. This may seem odd to outsiders, however relationships can be minefields in themselves, but emotions are not so easy to navigate especially when there may be other ties in play.
Imagine being in a situation where you are a 'stay at home' partner, with no income or support apart from that provided by your partner. It will be a fearful proposition to imagine going it alone. Often it can simply be fear of the unknown, that is the thought of how one would manage alone, or simply outside that relationship.
Children make the dynamics even more difficult, especially if there is a financial imbalance. Many females simply see the lifestyle of balancing contact after a split, as one bridge too far. Life certainly does become complex, when the management of contact and child support become every day life.
Embarrassment is probably something that outsiders do not consider, however it is never easy to say you were wrong, or made a mistake over a choice of a partner. Often this admission will be to those closest to the individual; that is family, friends and colleagues. There may be feelings of weakness for being in the situation, which add to this sense of inferiority.
Financial Dependency is a very real issue, especially in times where charities to support women are limited, as is the access to free legal representation. The rules in the United Kingdom were changed some time ago, so action could only be taken with access to funding if done immediately the abuse occurs. However, women are often fragile, and cannot access support or even legal help immediately due to these cuts in services. Clearly, this demonstrates that the System is therefore somewhat out of touch with handling these situations.
Fear should not be under-estimated as this is operates on many levels, and is not simply from the aggressor. Women are often afraid of the unknown, especially when they have children to consider. Sometimes reporting this crime can escalate the incidence of the abuse, so there are truly many factors which can come into play. There may even be fear of navigating the system following reporting abuse.
Lack of Support can mean that women suffer in silence. The traditional mechanisms often do not have resources to help, whilst the establishment continues to be out of touch with how to manage these situations. Simple changes in having trained staff within the police forces can make an enormous difference; however with services under pressure, often the wrong staff are often left to deal with domestic violence and abuse. Support may simply be unavailable as the woman is embarrassed to admit there are major problems within their relationship.
Confidence in the system is equally a problem, as most realize this is one person's word against another. Even with a positive duty to intervene, the system is still administered by staff who have no concept of the difficulties within these situations. Women equally may lack self-confidence, especially if they have suffered in silence over a period of time, or have suffered on multiple occasions.
Culture, ethnicity or religion may play a part in the reasons as to why women remain silent about domestic violence. Often beliefs and culture mean that it is difficult to walk away from an abusive relationship. It is little understood that some cultures still believe that talking about the dynamics of your relationship is not for the public domain, which may leave women isolated and unable to seek help. It may equally be the case that minorities, who have historically struggled with the System, may have a distrust of asking for help in these situations.
This issue will continue to be a problem until society truly calls out on the aggressors fully. It is very important to do so, to give women confidence to speak up and for the System to have a clear, sensitive mandate to handle these situations. Most important is the need to inundate the domestic violence support services with staff who are empathetic and have access to real help for those who come to them.
We must start to re-educate children in a value set, which does not accept these behaviours from both aggressor and the person subjected to the abuse. We must inform our young that resorting to violence effectively means that you have lost, but moreover that society will not tolerate this. Equally important is the need to educate our children in effective communication in their relationships. This will offer benefit in home and work life, as often tension can bounce from one to the other.
We must respect, care and take responsibility for each other, especially when conducting relationships. It is time for the population to regain this respect for each other. This is the way in which we will start to eradicate domestic violence and remove this 'silent voice of women', or indeed any person subjected to abuse.
By Elle Smith
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