Non-Violent Control – Is There a Way Out?


Thursday 22nd November 2012

Humiliation, belittling, making a woman feel that she is a burden and useless while loading her up with unrealistic demands and responsibilities, threatening her and the children and keeping them short of money.  All these are tools of the trade to a man bent on abusing his wife or partner.

Nowadays, domestic abuse is defined by experts in the field as going well beyond   physical attacks.  It also includes sexual, psychological or emotional and financial violence within an intimate or family-type relationship and it takes place within a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.

Unfortunately not all forms of abuse are illegal.  Knocking his wife about or taking that to the ultimate and killing her, puts a man behind bars.  But he is unlikely to be locked up for subtle, controlling behaviour that destroys her happiness, quality of life and her self-esteem, especially when the words are spoken in a gentle voice.

“Had a relaxing day, have we?” says the returning husband on spotting a little dust, when his wife has spent her day looking after sick children, coping with phone calls from her bereaved parent, and struggling with a broken washing machine.

OK – it could possibly be a joke, like he says. But that will only be proven if he regularly rolls up his sleeves and pulls his weight around the home. We might believe him if he consistently does his share of getting up at night when the children wake from nightmares or demand that drink of water.

However it’s abuse when the little put-downs happen every day; when the woman is consistently criticised in front of family and friends; and is kept short of money when he’s not short himself. Abuse is not being allowed to see family and friends or have a job. It is abuse to prevent a woman from having any privacy.

Unfortunately, many women in these situations do not recognise what is happening to them as abuse because they are so powerfully controlled. Leaving does not occur to them as they try harder and harder to please the dominating male and stop the emotional pain or that ‘dead inside’ feeling.  Besides, what about the children?

Anyone who has not experienced an abusive relationship may think that victims should be able to get up at leave when they have had enough. Those who have been through it will understand that it is more complicated than that; and those who have finally mustered the courage and left will know that it is not impossible.

The best advice to women who are suffering from insidious, denigrating non-violent control and coercion is: seek advice from reliable sources. That could be a close friend or relation you trust, your GP or Citizens Advice, a computer in the library where your partner cannot easily trace your enquiries or a minister of religion.

Hard as it is, there is a way out.

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