I recall writing during lockdown a year ago, that domestic abuse rates had increased significantly at the time. Common logic dictates that many of the victimised women (and some men) also faced constant danger prior to the pandemic. The Office of National Statistics in the UK, estimated a rise of 6% in recorded domestic violence in the year ending March 2021, to 845,734, with a major increase projected in this year’s data, owing primarily to the pandemic. Physical assaults, rape, sexual harassment, stalking, and coercive and controlling behavior were all documented forms of violence. Interestingly, the same site reported that for the third consecutive year, the charging rate for domestic abuse-related crimes in England and Wales fell to 70% in the year ending March 2021, down from 76% in the year ending March 2018, implying that perpetrators are not being punished harshly enough.
The lockdown was, in fact, a haven for abusers. Their victims, who would typically have an escape route, had that route completely closed off by anti-virus procedures. It has been called by some, the shadow pandemic. Each week, two women in England and Wales are murdered by a current or former partner, according to Refuge, and every 30 seconds, the police receive a report concerning domestic abuse. These statistics, according to Lisa King, Refuge’s Director of Communications, are “horrific.” She described the nationwide lockdowns that have occurred in various locations around the United Kingdom as “a bit of a playground for perpetrators.”
“Women are increasingly subjected to financial, sexual, psychological, and even technical domination,” she told ABC News. “A massive, massive issue that has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the pandemic. COVID did not initiate domestic abuse, but it probably aggravated pre-existing patterns. And those who have undoubtedly encountered domestic abuse have almost probably encountered it more frequently and brutally.”
The emphasis on domestic abuse has highlighted just how serious the problem has really always been. Nobody chooses to be in a relationship with an abuser, and as we know from the various articles on the internet on narcissism, the early phases of a relationship sometimes conceal clear signs that could foreshadow future events. And, certainly, statistics indicate that the majority of abusers are men (paralleling the statistics on narcissism). Men abuse women in approximately 95 percent of recorded domestic violence instances, whereas women abuse men in approximately 5% of reported cases. However, this does not account for abuse in same-sex relationships, which can occur as well. As survivors are well aware, the progression from love to control to violence can be gradual and imperceptible. And, while domestic violence is a choice made by abusers, a number of characteristics are considered to increase someone’s likelihood of being abusive. Knowing these criteria can assist in identifying potential risks associated with potential partners:
-Need for control of what their partner does, who they see and even what they wear
-A personal history of abuse of others
-Inadequate coping skills that lead to frustration
-Self-esteem deficit that is projected outwards
-Mental disease that is left untreated
-Abuse of drugs or alcohol and loss of control
-Economic and social pressures (studies show a higher incidence of abuse in lower-income communities)
-Prior criminal convictions for abuse
-Rigid ideas about gender roles and sex
Rationally, one can say that it should be emphasised that simply because someone has been exposed to one or more of those characteristics does not automatically make them an abuser. On the other side, abusers may attempt to use one or more of the above as an excuse for their actions, thereby absolving themselves of guilt and even justifying their abuse. However, as social worker and PhD candidate Larry Bennett puts it, “a batterer who abstains from alcohol is a sober batterer.” No potential abuser will advertise the above “red flags” openly, so caution at the start of any relationship is advised.
Survivors frequently reflect on how they overlooked the warning signs. However, this blame game is unjust as abuse is never the fault of a survivor, nor is it their job to prevent it. Unfortunately, abusers and their ability to abuse, are not always obvious. Many are concealing themselves in plain sight, posing as some of the most fascinating individuals one can ever meet. The idea of the loner in sweatpants and hoodie is way off. According to author John G. Taylor in a 2013 Psychology Today article titled “Behind the Veil: Inside the Mind of Men Who Abuse,” men who abuse are “very bright, smart, and incredibly charming.” The majority of these males have an enticing demeanor that attracts others in due to their attractiveness. This is part of their deception and manipulation technique.” However, as survivors will know and I mentioned in an article I once wrote, one can fall in love with an image projected but the real self comes through when the mask drops. This makes for gruesome reading, and anybody joining the dating scene, particularly online, may be considered to be navigating the proverbial minefield.
The most shocking issue, on the other hand, has been saved until last. The worst of all the horrifying things you might read in this piece is overshadowed by the fact that some of the criminals had been prosecuted, arrested, and convicted after offending against the same person more than once, sometimes multiple times. This shows, among other things, that the legislation is not strict enough, but it also suggests that many people who have been abused allow the abuser to re-enter their life. It’s well-documented that these characters are extremely persuasive and that they always reserve the right to return for more supply, but one has to wonder why this is happening. Even though no-one deserves abuse, one can legitimately wonder what kind of help a victim receives if their abuser is permitted to harm them again. The majority of those who have been victimized are vulnerable and require guidance and protection against these individuals returning and putting them in danger again. A real life story.