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What is domestic violence?

There is support out there for anyone suffering from domestic violence


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Domestic violence can affect anyone and isn't just violence in the home. It's emotional, physical or sexual abuse and includes abuse from boyfriends, girlfriends or ex-partners as well as relations. Both men and women can be victims of domestic violence.

Maybe you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence. It can be threats or verbal abuse, being forced to have sex, being attacked and beaten or being hit or kicked every now and then. If someone is hurting or frightening you at home or in a relationship, then this is domestic violence.

Many young people who have experienced domestic violence grow up seeing violence between their parents, or seeing a parent being attacked or threatened regularly. Living with domestic violence means you are more at risk of abuse and you probably live with a lot of fear, stress, anger or sorrow.

Examples of domestic violence

The following are typical examples of abusive behaviour: 

  • Frightening you 
  • Punching, kicking, slapping, choking, shaking, pushing, hitting you, spitting at you or pulling your hair
  • Threatening you, your family, your friends or pets
  • Making you have sex or do something sexual that you don’t want to do
  • Constant criticism or blame
  • Controlling your life, taking your money, and not letting you see friends
  • Calling you names and making you feel worthless
  • Terrifying you with their temper

If you live with domestic violence or suffer from any sort of abuse, help is available. If you need someone to talk to, you can contact Childline (under 18's) on 1800 66 66 66 or Samaritans on 116 123.

There are also organisations you can turn to. SAFE Ireland (for women and children) or AMEN (for men) can offer you advice and emergency accommodation.

If there is an emergency, call the Gardaí.

Growing up with domestic violence

If you grow up with violence at home, you might not realise that it’s abuse or you might think that this is normal family life. It doesn’t matter if you are a victim of abuse or you see or hear other family members being abused; nobody should have to live with or witness domestic violence.

It can also damage your self-esteem to watch a parent being threatened, attacked, accused or cursed at constantly. Many people feel guilty about not being able to help or about feeling too frightened to do anything about the abuse.

It’s likely that if you live with domestic violence you’ll also become a victim, physically or through put downs, threats, being called 'useless' or 'stupid' or being forced to stay silent about the violence.

Problems that can be caused by domestic violence

  • Stress, panic attacks, anxiety, anger, fear and depression. This can lead to self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
  • You might feel guilty or think that you deserve the abuse or that it’s your own fault. Abuse is never deserved, no matter how bad you feel about yourself. It’s the person hurting you who is in the wrong.
  • You might become withdrawn and isolate yourself from friends or family. Or, you might start causing problems in school and get into trouble regularly.
  • Nervousness and worry can cause physical illness such as headaches, feeling sick, not being able to sleep or bed-wetting.

Finding help for domestic violence

If you're in an abusive relationship or live with domestic violence, there is help out there.

  • Tell someone you trust about your situation and ask them to support you or go with you to the Gardai.
  • If you aren't ready to speak to someone you know, you can call Childline (under 18's) on 1800 66 66 66 or Samaritans on 116 123
  • Women's Aid run a free 24 hour helpline for anyone who wants to talk in confidence about abuse in their relationship: 1800 341 900
  • If the abuser is living in your home then you might need a temporary place to live in safety. SAFE Ireland (for women and children) or AMEN (for men) can offer you emergency accommodation.
  • Telling someone you’re being abused doesn’t mean that you’ll be taken away from your family. Social services will try to work out a situation that means you are safe from abuse, but still with your family.

  • If you have been sexually abused, you can visit your nearest Rape Crisis Centre. Find out more about sexual abuse here.
  • If the abuser is someone you know and love, it can be very difficult to speak out against what’s happening. 

  • Sometimes an abuser will threaten to harm you or someone you love if you tell anyone what’s happening. These threats are a way of frightening you into silence. You should not let this stop you from coming forward and speaking out about the abuse.

  • Even after the abuse has stopped, you might have emotional or self-confidence problems. Visit a counsellor to help you cope with your feelings.
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Published January 7th, 2013
Last updated April 24th, 2018
Tags domestic violence abuse sexual abuse
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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