Recognising the abuse
The first thing to do is to be aware of the signs that show you are in an abusive relationship. If your partner does any of the following listed below you may be in an abusive relationship.
Patterns and Forms of Violence
- Does not let you visit your relatives or attend funerals or women’s meetings.
- Refuses you to find employment
- Tells you where you can and cannot go
- Prevents you from seeing friends and relatives; shuts you in the house.
- Persuades you that you are lucky to have him and that no other man would have you.
- Believes that he beats you because he loves you.
- Says you caused the abuse
- Expects you to dig for long hours in the fields, to work even when you are ill
- Monitors your movements.
- Allocates hours within which certain work must be performed.
- Does Not allow you any privacy (for example repeatedly checks to see who has phoned you)
- Accompanies you everywhere you go.
- Keeps knives and machetes in the bedroom saying he will use them on you, burns your clothes, kills your domestic animals.
- Threatens or attempts self-harm and suicide.
- Making humiliating remarks about you, your dress, cleanliness, lack of ability to care for children.
- Abuses you and compares you unfavourably with other women or says you take after your mother or your people.
- Persistently puts you down in front of other people
- Does not listen or respond when you talk
- Interrupts your telephone calls
- Takes money from your purse without asking
- Refuses to help with childcare or housework
- Embarasses you in public
- Shouts at you; mocks you; accuses you; calls you names; verbally threatens you
- Sexually violates you (for example, uses force, tells you to do sexual things you are not comfortable with)
- Demands that food is cooked in a certain way, his shirts ironed to perfection and bathing hot water available
- Insists you dress in a certain way
- Insists that you buy everything for him, asks you for money and account for every shilling spent
- Holds all property in his names only
- Tells you that you have no choice in any decisions
- Threatens you: makes angry gestures; uses size to intimidate, shouts at you, destroys your possessions, breaks things, punches walls, wields a knife or a gun, threatens to kill or harm you and the children, threatens to kill or harm family pets, threatens to commit suicide
What to do
- Call our MIFUMI helpline 0800 200 250 or in the case of an emergency call 999
- Make a safety plan (especially in the case of an emergency)
A personal safety plan helps you to protect yourself and your children. It helps you plan in advance for the possibility of future violence and abuse. It also helps you to think about how you can increase your safety either within the relationship, or if you decide to leave.
You can’t stop your partner’s violence and abuse – only he can do that. But there are things you can do to increase your own and your children’s safety. You’re probably already doing some things to protect yourself and your children – for example, there may be a pattern to the violence which may enable you to plan ahead to increase your safety.
- Plan in advance how you might respond in different situations, including crisis situations.
- Think about the different options that may be available to you.
- Keep with you any important and emergency telephone numbers (for example our helpline number 0800 200 250)
- Teach your children to call 999 in an emergency, and what they would need to say (for example, their full name, address and telephone number).
- Are there neighbours you could trust, and where you could go in an emergency? If so, tell them what is going on, and ask them to call the police if they hear sounds of a violent attack.
- Rehearse an escape plan, so in an emergency you and the children can get away safely.
- Pack an emergency bag for yourself and your children, and hide it somewhere safe (for example, at a neighbour’s or friend’s house). Try to avoid mutual friends or family.
- Try to keep a small amount of money on you at all times – including change for the phone and for bus fares.
- Know where the nearest phone is, and if you have a mobile phone, try to keep it with you.
- If you suspect that your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower risk area of the house – for example where there is a way out and access to a telephone. Avoid the kitchen where there are likely to be knives or other weapons; and avoid rooms where you might be trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.
- Be prepared to leave the house in an emergency.
- Remind yourself of your worth, give us a call before and we will provide you with positive coping strategies and strengths.
- Take legal advice about your situation (from specialist services such as MIFUMI, FIDA or lawyers who are sensitive and aware of domestic violence issues).
- If you work, make sure someone at work knows your situation.
- Keep a record of incidents/or tell someone who will keep a record, including: time, date, what happened, witnesses, names and numbers of Police Officers, photographs etc.
- Frequently review your Safety Plan
Protecting yourself after you have left
If you leave your partner because of abuse, you may not want people to know the reason you left.
It is your decision whether or not you tell people that you have suffered domestic abuse; but if you believe you may still be at risk, it might increase your safety if you tell your family and friends, your children’s school, and your employer or college what is happening, so that they do not inadvertently give out any information to your ex-partner. They will also be more prepared and better able to help you in an emergency.
If you have left home, but are staying in the same town or area, these are some of the ways in which you might be able to increase your safety:
- Try not to place yourself in a vulnerable position or isolate yourself.
- Try to avoid any places, such as shops, banks, cafes, that you used to use when you were together.
- Try to alter your routines as much as you can.
- Tell your children’s school, nursery or childminder what has happened, and let them know who will pick them up. Make sure they do not release the children to anyone else, or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. (You may want to establish a password with them, and give them copies of any court orders, if you have them.)
- Consider telling your employer or others at your place of work – particularly if you think your partner may try to contact you there.
If your ex-partner continues the abuse
If your ex-partner continues to harass, threaten or abuse you, make sure you keep detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said or done, and, if possible, photographs of damage to your property or injuries to yourself or others.
If your partner or ex-partner injures you, go to hospital for treatment and ask them to document your visit.
If you have an injunction with a power of arrest, or there is a restraining order in place, you should ask the police to enforce this; and if your ex-partner is in breach of any court order, you should also tell your solicitor.
Message of hope
Seeking help can feel like the hardest part but is the first step to transforming your life. Don’t forget that you are not alone.
Violence against women is very common and affects thousands of women all over the world. Many of these women, with help and support, have rejected violence and gone on to lead fulfilled lives. You can do it too.