Domestic abuse perpetrators take on a number of different personas and use a number of different tactics to dominate their victim. Over the next few months we will be devoting a blog post to each of these, and as it’s Anti-Bullying Week this week, we’ll start with The Bully.
The dictionary defines a bully as: “A person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.” We’ve all come across a few bullies in our time-I’m sure that right now we can think of someone. Whether it was in the school playground/corridors, in your social circle or your work place, bullies are (sadly) everywhere. But imagine living with your bully. Most of us who have come across bullies have been able to escape their influence once the school bell rings or we clock-off for the night. Even people who have grown up living with a bully parent can one day move out. But to be bullied by the person you have committed to being with – either through marriage, verbal declarations, housing arrangements or having kids together – and from whom there seems to be no easy escape is another thing entirely. But this is the reality for many victims of domestic abuse.
How does a bully gain and maintain power and control over their victim?
A bully’s main weapon is physical intimidation which causes their victim to fear for their physical safety. Even if physical violence has never occurred, there is always a looming threat that it could occur at any moment in time. Bullies can be seen in business suits and tracksuits, they can be seen with briefcases and bulldogs and can be seen as physically imposing or physically weak. It is not simply the externals that decide on whether someone is a bully, but how they use them. Both the contents of a briefcase and a bulldog could be used to intimidate someone. Equally, they could be used to protect someone, or bring them encouragement or joy.
Some of the tactics that a bully might use include:
Glares: The beauty of a glare for a perpetrator is that it can be delivered across a crowded room and both the glare and the danger it implies is only noticeable by the victim. No one can be arrested, taken to court or accused of domestic abuse because of a glare right? But that glare can cause a victim to stop in their tracks, shut down conversations or change their behaviour in an instant. Because a glare holds a lot of promise – the promise of retribution, increased anger and violence if it isn’t appeased.
Shouts: There aren’t many things that intimidate me, but someone shouting at me really does. The idea of someone’s aggression, hatred and violent intent being forcefully channelled in my direction is not a pleasant one. I’d probably do anything to diffuse the situation and stop the violence escalating from intent to actual. This is exactly what a bully counts on when they shout at or around their victim – pushing them into submission and compliance in order to diffuse the escalating aggression.
Smashes things: Again, a bully counts on their victim desiring to diffuse this display of violence and aggression before it destroys more possessions or gets turned on the victim themselves. The perpetrator may not want anything more from their victim in that moment than the knowledge that they are dangerous and should be submitted to in the future if they want to avoid further and potentially worse displays of aggression.
Sulks: When a dominant character sulks, it affects the atmosphere of the whole room and everyone is deeply aware of the volatile mood of that person. Everyone around them walks on egg shells and desperately avoids rocking the boat, which for a victim of domestic abuse inevitably means relenting to the desires and demands of their perpetrator, often at great personal cost.
What to do if you’re living with a bully
If you’re in a relationship with a bully then please know that there is a way out. You do not have to continue being their victim. Each abusive relationship is so unique that it would be irresponsible to write our ‘top tips for dealing with bullies’ in this article, and the reality is that you will never be able to get a bully to stop being a bully. Instead our advice is to please visit one of our drop in or One Stop Shop services where one of our experienced and friendly team members will listen to your story and work with you to stay safe and, if you want to, become free from the abusive relationship. In the mean time, here are a few tips for staying safe with a bully:
Until you have worked with a professional to create a plan for how to leave the relationship safely, avoid letting them know you are thinking of doing this. Any signs of you taking back control may cause the abuser to escalate their methods of power and control.
If a challenging conversation of any nature is unavoidable, make sure they take place in a room in the house where you have a clear escape route. Somewhere with more than one exit would be ideal.
If you have someone you can talk to about your relationship, establish a code word that you can either send in a text or say over the phone and they will know to come round or phone the police.
Keep a log of all instances of abuse and photograph any evidence of physical violence. This could be very helpful if the situation ever went to the police or court.
If you or anyone else are is any danger, call 999 immediately.
The main thing to remember when living with a Bully is that their power does not extend as far as they want you to think is does. There are safe ways to get out from under a Bully, so please get in touch with us and we can help you begin your journey to freedom.