I am sure that most readers, are already aware that there are many forms of abuse. In fact, it is likely that many of you have suffered one or more of the following types of abuse;
Religious/belief based abuse
I deliberately left psychological abuse till the end, as not only is it a type of abuse in itself, but it can be (and more often than not is) a side effect from all the other types stated in the list. On doing a quick search on the definition of emotional abuse, it brought this back;
“Psychological abuse (also referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse, or mental abuse) is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting, or exposing, another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Throughout my own life, I have in one-way shape or form experienced all of the above. For example, I remember very clearly how it felt to be punched in the back of the head at 11 years old by a much older and larger man. I remember finally knowing what “seeing stars” meant, as after falling to the ground, that was all I could see. Little flashes of light, spots, stars. Equally, I remember how it felt at age 12, to be back handed round the face, dragged out in to the courtyard where 3 chairs were laid out for my brothers to sit in and told repeatedly I was a slut and to strip for them as a punishment for something I hadn’t even done. On that occasion, not just the immediate physical pain but the sexual degradation of what ensued feels as fresh as if it were yesterday.
However, all of that occurred and ended very quickly. I would estimate that from the moment I was hit round the face to the moment I was finally dragged back in to my bedroom (having refused to strip for my brother and two step brothers) and thrown on the floor, the amount of time that had taken place was probably only half an hour at the most. It was maybe an hour later that my step brother entered my room to berate me more telling me my entire family wished I had died instead of my older sister who had died just months before. Twenty-two years later and the memory of that afternoon still haunts me. Whenever I allow myself to think of it, or on the occasions where my brain gives me no choice in the matter, all the PSYCHOLOGICAL thoughts and feelings I felt come flooding back and always will. Not only that, but I am certain that trauma contributed to my already broken self-esteem, leading on too many future choices I would make about love and relationships, sex etc. that would only exacerbate the problem further.
As an adult, I went on to form many relationships that were abusive. Mostly psychological. I would be lying if I said that it never worked both ways. In fact, in hindsight I realize that the one or two good people I managed to meet and become involved with, I pushed away with my own paranoia that it was all a lie, that at some point they would absolutely hurt me and I think subconsciously, I wanted to hurt them first out of self-preservation. This is another huge issue with abuse, any kind, the cycle it can create. The further abuse to the person originally abused or the people they encounter.
Because of a string of disastrous relationships, the last one being particularly brutal, I have now by choice been single for five years and have no desire whatsoever to break that streak. That partnered with the complete break away from any family, I struggle through life more or less completely alone. There are days when it is so unbelievably hard that I question my decisions, but my brain will always find a way to remind me of the alternative. So, I ultimately decide to continue on alone rather than risk the pain that to me, is inevitable when it comes to love, whether familial or otherwise.
My own experiences, experiences of friends, partnered with the ever-increasing number of people suffering mental health issues or committing suicide, has led me to delve in to the laws surrounding emotional and psychological abuse. Unsurprisingly, I regret to inform you that they are flimsy at best.
In 2015 in the UK, a new law was introduced pertaining to emotional abuse, however only seems to cover this type of abuse in domestic situations. This legislation introduces the potential for psychological abusers to face a prison sentence of up to five years and is described as “controlling, coercive abuse” which can include the following;
Isolating a person from their family and friends
Repeatedly putting them down, telling them they are worthless etc.
Controlling what they do, who they see, what they wear, where they go etc.
Enforcing rules or activities that degrade, humiliate or dehumanize
The threat of violence
Threats to reveal or publish private information
This offence is only seen as such if it fits the following criteria;
The abuse is suffered “repeatedly or continuously” and on an ongoing basis
It must have had a “serious effect” on the victim
The victim must have feared that violence would be used against them on at least two occasions
Been caused serious alarm or distress, enough so to disrupt day to day life
The abuse must be calculated on the part of the abuser
Both victim and abuser must be “personally connected when the incidents took place”
David Tucker, of The College for Policing said this once the bill was in place and further police training had occurred;
“To tackle a domestic abuse case successfully, police need to see the big picture behind an individual incident. This depends on officers being properly trained and having access to information about both the victim and the perpetrator; effective and accurate risk management, partnership working and information sharing. The failure for any of these links can be the difference between life and death for a victim. Our research indicated the need for a culture change within policing attitudes towards domestic abuse. Sometimes police cannot understand why a victim would stay in an abusive relationship. There are dozens of reasons why victims feel unable to leave or support prosecution.”
Considering this eloquent and supportive statement coming from the Police on this matter in December 2015, it is therefore extremely disappointing to say the least to see an article by the same news site just 9 months later, reporting their failure to prosecute a single person under this new law and only acknowledging two cases of people being charged. Knowing what I know, I cannot see that this can be due to a lack of offenders or victims. So why is this the case? Is it ignorance? That most people don’t know this law even exists? Is it the fear of repercussions from the abuser when the case is inevitably thrown out due to lack of evidence or first-time offences? Could it be down to how successful the abuse has been, that many victims feel this is what they deserve or have been accustomed to? It could be any one of these answers or a combination.
Here is a quote from the article from www.independent.co.uk;
“Police forces in England and Wales are failing to take action on a new law against psychological abuse, it has been revealed, prompting concerns that domestic violence is not being targeted effectively.
Information obtained by an independent law firm highlighted a “worryingly low” number of people being charged under the new Coercive Control (CC) law brought into place last year.
Three forces – Kent, Hertfordshire and Norfolk – all reported 10 or more prosecutions between December 2015 and June 2016, but the majority of forces have taken action on fewer than two occasions during that time
Nine police forces in the country are yet to prosecute a single person under the new law.
An amendment to the Serious Crime Bill last year means that “coercive or controlling behavior” in intimate or family relationships is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.
The law aims to reduce psychological bullying that includes extreme emotional abuse, even if it does not amount to physical violence.
Citizens Advice said it stepped in to help at least 3,000 victims of emotional abuse and 900 victims of financial abuse in 2014, but take-up of the new powers to prosecute offenders has so far been very low.
Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Services at law firm Simpson Millar, who obtained the data, said the low figures were “particularly concerning” considering the high number of those seeking help for domestic violence each month, and called for increased awareness and understanding of the new laws.
She said: “One of the biggest concerns when it comes to coercive control is that victims are not aware that being isolated from friends or family, having access to money and bank accounts restricted, or even having personal medical conditions revealed, is domestic abuse and, now, a criminal offence.”
“With less than three coercive control offences on average per police authority, more needs to be done, so that people can involve the Police at an early stage – before coercion turns into physical abuse.”
In conclusion, it seems to me that whilst things are “being done” it certainly is not enough. It slightly concerns me that these laws are limited to domestic incidents, it concerns me that they still seem to be missing the point of psychological abuse, still bringing it back to the possibility of eventual physical violence or the threat of same. Mostly it concerns me that even WITH these new laws being brought in, they aren’t being enforced and a huge majority of cases are remaining unreported possibly due to a lack of awareness, evidence or simply an abundance of fear either of the abusers or the process. This “law” is looking like it is going to be about as useful as those put in place to protect any kind of victim who isn’t physically broken and bleeding from head to toe.
So, I will end this entry with one question…
What exactly was the point?