“It’s not like he’s hit her or anything”

Working for a domestic abuse charity seems to make people want to tell you about the relationships of women they care about. Sometimes it’s simply because they just don’t like the guy, sometimes they have some genuine concerns about behavioural changes they have noticed in their friend/relative. But after reeling off a list of examples of misconduct, they are often all undermined with the summarising statement ‘but it’s not like he’s violent or anything…’

Despite a growing awareness that abuse doesn’t always mean bruises, we STILL wait for physical violence before we think there is anything serious going on. For many of us, physical violence is the straw that breaks the camels back. Only physical violence warrants attention and intervention. However, for many victims of abuse, physical violence never features in the terrorism that they are subjected to, or if it does, it is a sign of the situation dangerously escalating. Not that I’ve read it, but I’m sure that in ‘A dummy’s guide to camelling’, it advises to stop piling on straw on the animal way before it’s back breaks.

At SATEDA we run the Freedom Programme, a course designed for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. It recognises that physical violence is only once aspect of abuse and focuses on the idea of the abuser being ‘The Dominator’ and looks at the various personas the abuser can have. Pat Craven, who designed the course, says:

“When I was a Probation Officer I ran courses for male ‘perpetrators’ of violence against women and children. For two years I sat among groups of men who had injured, raped or killed their victims. I realised that abusive men use a range of tactics to control women… they decide to use violence when they realise that their other tactics are failing”

Pat Craven has identified the following 8 perpetrator personas:

-The Bully

-The Jailer

-The Headworker

-The Sexual Controller

-The King of the Castle

-The Bad Father

-The Liar

-The Persuader

An abuser may only use tactics belonging to one or two of these personas, or they may use all of them. They may never use physical violence or may do so on a daily basis. However, whatever the tactics or persona, it is never acceptable for a persons liberty, rights and wellbeing to be negatively impacted by the deliberate behaviour of another person who is seeking to dominate them. It is never acceptable for a person to be systematically terrorised by another.

Over the next few months, we will be releasing blog posts featuring each of the eight persona’s mentioned above, looking at their tactics and what to do to stay safe if you come across one.

As a parting challenge, let’s agree to never use the phrase ‘but it’s not like he’s violent or anything…’ again. Let’s not neutralise or minimise abuse just because it’s not physical. Let’s instead call a spade a spade and acknowledge abuse when we see it.

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