Being aware of domestic abuse

We hear a lot about domestic abuse these days, and how to spot the signs and symptoms of it. Any family lawyer will tell you that domestic abuse touches more lives than we as a community would like to believe. It blights the lives of rich and poor alike. It does not matter if you are a high-powered professional or a teenager struggling to manage on benefits – none of us is immune.

Reports of domestic abuse are increasing in Jersey. Last year the Government of Jersey launched the ‘Sitting Right With You’ campaign, designed to raise awareness. The Jersey Safeguarding Partnership Board have produced a domestic abuse strategy. They define domestic abuse as “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.”

When a relationship is breaking down, domestic abuse can be a particularly difficult thing to deal with. If it is a problem for you, or someone you love, here are some things to think about:

1. Stay safe and keep your children safe. Always.
2. Recognise abuse in all its forms. It is not just about violence. If your partner is taking control of your life, or your finances, then you may need help. If you feel isolated, or realise that your family and friends have gradually been pushed away – take heart, you are not as alone as you feel;
3. It is not just for women. Men can be, and are, victims of domestic abuse;
4. It is not your fault. You have not pushed buttons, wound them up or asked for it;
5. Your situation may feel normal to you when the problems have been there for a long time, but that does not mean that it is normal. If you recognise the signs of abuse in your relationship, that is not ok;
6. Ask for help if you need it. The police have specialist officers that can help you to consider and manage the risks that you are facing. You can contact the Jersey Domestic Abuse Support team. From the specialists working at the Women’s Refuge, to social services and your family GP – there are a range of people out there who help to support the victims of domestic abuse, and there is help available for people who want to change their behaviours towards others;
7. If you decide to take legal advice, be open with your lawyer. It is important that lawyers are aware of the risks, and the dynamics within your family, when they are advising you in relation to divorce, arrangements for your children and even when we are working out how we can help to resolve your finances. The future can be better, and it can be bright – but we need to know what hurdles you might have to overcome.

Advocate Claire Davies
This article first appeared in Connect January 2020