New research has revealed just how pervasive abuse is, with almost half of British women reporting that they or someone close to them has been the victim of gender-based violence – either physical or psychological.
Avon has surveyed 14,400 women across 15 countries to coincide with the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which concludes on December 10. The results found that not only have 36% of British women experienced psychological abuse, but 59% wouldn’t even know where to go to seek help, while 73% fear seeking help will make things worse.
The statistics are shocking, and for many of us it’s a wake-up call to how widespread a problem it is.
The charity Refuge says: “Recognising that you are being abused is an important step. If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused. Where you go from here is up to you.”
If you think you might be at risk of gender-based physical or mental abuse or domestic violence, here are some things you could consider doing.
If you’re living with your abuser
As per Refuge’s advice, if you and potentially your children are still living with your abuser, it’s important to be prepared. This includes having emergency numbers ready, whether it’s friends, relatives or the police.
In case you need to prove the abuse at a later date, Refuge recommends making a note of pertinent incidents – the when, where and what – as well as keeping copies of texts, emails or letters.
Keep money and keys safe in case you need to leave last minute, and Refuge also recommends a back-up plan: Talk to your friends or family and confirm somewhere you can stay in an emergency.
If you’re planning to leave your abuser, the charity says it “can be dangerous. Your partner may feel like he has lost control over you – and he may resort to more extreme measures to regain that control,” so call the National Domestic Violence Helpline to talk through your options.
If you’ve left your abuser
In some instances, you might have left the abusive relationship but feel like you’re in danger. Refuge advises changing the locks on your house, thinking about escape routes, seeing a solicitor and telling the school who can pick up your children. It could also be worthwhile asking the police how to best secure your home.
Reach out for help
Charities like Refuge are highly trained and know how to deal with situations of domestic abuse with the utmost care – it says: “We won’t judge you or tell you what to do. We won’t tell anyone you have been in touch with us. Although it may feel impossible now, you can rebuild your life free from violence and fear. Whatever you decide, your safety is always our priority.”
Throughout the UK you can also visit Women’s Aid Scotland, Women’s Aid Northern Ireland or Welsh Women’s Aid. All of them have hotlines to call on their websites if you need urgent help.
For 24-hour support call the Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid.
Avon has launched the #EmbraceTheChange campaign which shines a light on the different forms of non-physical abuse experienced by women around the world, including digital harassment, coercive control and emotional abuse.