Support for survivors: popular questions about domestic violence 12.12.07
The questions asked in this article may be relevant to women experiencing domestic violence, for example, "will my partner change?" Click on the questions to view the answers.
You can also visit the Survivor's Handbook.
- What is domestic violence?
- My boyfriend has hit me a couple of times recently. What can I do?
- My partner says that the abuse is my fault. Is this true?
- Will my partner change?
- How can I help my partner to stop hurting me?
- It doesn’t happen all of the time and when he isn’t violent he is really nice to me. Is this really abuse?
In Women's Aid's view domestic violence may include physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called 'honour crimes'. Domestic violence may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently 'violent'. More
There are a number of things you can do. Firstly, you may want to contact the domestic violence unit of your local police force to report the assault. You may be able to file a report of what has happened with them without them actually taking any action against your boyfriend at this stage. This could then be used as evidence in the future if necessary.
If you have any injuries it would be a good idea to see your GP and tell them about what has happened. This will be treated confidentially. Your GP can make a note of what happened on your medical records, which could be called upon if you require evidence of what has happened in the future, if you decide, for example, you need a non-molestation injunction for protection, or if criminal proceedings are ever brought against him.
You can find your local domestic violence organisation to speak to somebody for support and a listening ear, or if you feel you need to get away from home for a while. You could also call the National Domestic Violence Helpline*.
It’s extremely common for an abusive person to say this. It’s just another form of abuse, and because he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions. Domestic abuse is never the fault or responsibility of anyone except the abuser. Your partner is an adult and makes a choice about the actions he takes. He could choose to walk away from the situation but instead he chooses to be abusive. Whether it’s physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse, it’s completely unacceptable.
Will my partner change?
It’s possible for abusive people to change their behaviour. However, it’s very difficult to change and so isn’t very common. If your partner has promised to change before and then has resumed his abusive behaviour it’s likely that this pattern will continue to repeat itself.
Unfortunately what usually happens in an abusive relationship is that the abuse increases both in frequency and severity. If your partner is serious about changing his behaviour then he’ll need to seek help either through his GP or through a service specifically for abusive men.
It’s also important to remember that changing this type of behaviour will take time and effort. If he attends a few sessions and then announces that he’s ‘cured’, this is unlikely to really be the case. The best perpetrator programmes provide support for the partners and ex-partners of perpetrators, and they’ll be able to give you further information and support.
You might want to take a break from the relationship while he seeks help. During the time that he’s dealing with the reasons why he’s abusive, many issues will be brought to the surface. This could increase the intensity of the abuse for a period of time. For this reason, you may want to consider how to ensure your own safety, and that of any children you may have, during this period.
If your partner is still in any way blaming you for the abuse, then it’s clear that he hasn’t accepted full responsibility for what has happened, and while he’s still saying this, his behaviour is unlikely to change.
How can I help my partner to stop hurting me?
Your partner is the only person who is responsible for the abuse. Consequently he’s the only person who can change what’s happening. It’s only natural to want to help someone that you are in an intimate relationship with and it can be difficult to realise that this isn’t really possible. If in some way, he blames the abuse on your actions then this shows that he’s not accepting responsibility for his behaviour. It’s likely that if you change aspects about yourself or your behaviour in order to appease him, he will eventually find some other ‘reason’ to be abusive towards you.
If your partner wants to change his behaviour, then he’ll need to seek help either through his GP or through a service specifically for abusive men.
You can take positive action yourself – for example, by removing yourself from the situation, reporting his abuse to the police so that he’s held accountable, or using legal means to prevent him from being able to hurt or harass you.
It doesn’t happen all the time and when he isn’t violent he’s really nice to me. Is this really abuse?
It’s a misconception that an abusive relationship is violent all the time. If a partner was violent and abusive all the time and from the outset of a relationship, you’d be unlikely to get into a relationship with him – or to stay with him very long if you had. This is what makes it so difficult for women to walk away from an abusive relationship. Often a woman doesn’t want the relationship to end, she just wants the violence to stop. However, unless he’s addressing the reasons for his violence towards you, remember that it’s likely to happen again. Unfortunately what usually happens is that the abuse increases both in frequency and severity over time. It might help to talk to someone who help you look at your options.
*The National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Women's Aid & Refuge.