What is domestic violence?
If you have suspicions that you or a loved one is suffering from domestic violence, we will help you recognise the signs and what action you can take.
Very often people perceive domestic violence only as physical aggression in which one partner is aggressive towards the other. That however by no means exhausts the term “domestic violence”. It includes any gesture, verbal or non-verbal, by which one person in the relationship exerts control or dominance over the other or over their children. Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, dependence are attributed to the victim, and very often the abuser isolates her from the outside world to nurture his sense of ownership over her.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence – men and women, people in heterosexual or homosexual relationships. Women suffer the highest percentage of domestic violence, although men can also be subject to emotional and verbal abuse.
In Bulgaria, many people are still ashamed to admit that they are victims of violence. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, therefore at the Dokova & Dokov Foundation for the Future, we are striving to run campaigns to raise awareness about human rights, how to recognize the signs of domestic violence and how the law can help us to protect ourselves.
Common forms of domestic violence
Domestic violence can be classified into several types – verbal/emotional, economic, physical and sexual.
Economical violence (imposing financial constraints)
If your partner has allowed to hurt you once, don’t be fooled that this will not happen again.
Accidental injury is a sign of crossing the line in the relationship, in which the partner accepts that everything is allowed and will go unpunished.
Causes of domestic violence
Being an aggressor is unacceptable, there is no excuse that can mitigate the guilt of a person, behaving in such manner. One of the leading misconceptions is that domestic violence happens precisely because a person loses control over their behavior. This is not so – aggression happens consciously. It is the result of an individual’s choice and desire to control the other. The aggressor may use various tactics of manipulation and force to achieve its goal.
Most often, the aggressor manifests himself as such to those closest to him in the family, while in front of society, friends and relatives he behaves nicely and looks like a model of a loving husband. You must not forget that the aggressor is harassing the other quite deliberately and is trying cleverly to conceal himself from the looks of other people.
Consequences of domestic violence
Domestic violence can cause lasting and irreparable damage not only to the physical body but also to the psyche of the victim. Subsequent therapy may take years until the victim fully regains mental health. The consequences of domestic violence are highly individual to the specific case. We will list some of the most common ones:
The impact that violence has on children, witnesses of domestic violence should not be overlooked. It can lead to difficulties for the child in its childhood and later in adulthood.
When do we need help?
There are a number of signs of domestic violence, which we will try to list.
The first and clearest sign is feeling afraid of your partner. If you feel constant anxiety in communicating with your partner, trying to be careful what words to use in front of your partner to avoid conflict, your relationship is probably toxic. There is domestic violence in your relationship, if:
Characteristic features of an abusive relationship
In most cases it is extremely difficult to recognize from the outside that there is domestic violence in a couple. However, there are some tell-tale signs that may suggest there is a problem with a close friend or a neighbour of yours. If you witness any of the signs listed below, it is important to take action – try to talk to the victim or even alert the domestic violence crisis centres and the police.
• They may look pondering a lot about how to please their partner so that he is satisfied;
• They may fully accept their partner controlling their daily lives;
• They may receive frequent phone calls from their partner during their meetings with outside people and the ringing of the phone troubles them;
• They may share that their partner is jealous of them and has a hard temper, difficult to please;
• They may have bruises and scars that they justify with accidental slipping or falling and similar household "accidents";
• They may wear unusual accessories - long-sleeved clothes in summer, scarves or sunglasses indoors, in order to conceal the bruises and scars;
• They might miss work, school or appointments without explanation;
• They may see less and less of their friends or relatives;
• They may almost never be seen in private, would always go out in the presence of their partner;
• They may have limited access to money, a car or even the internet.
• They may share that they could not afford to support themselves without the financial support of their partner.
If you suspect that a close friend or acquaintance of yours is suffering from domestic violence, do not expect them to contact you and come to you asking for help. What you can do is ask them if everything is all right, express your concern and above all listen to them. The first and most important step is for the victim to gain the courage to share what is happening, and at a later stage action can be considered – leaving the partner, getting a restraining order, etc. Regardless of their decision at the time to continue cohabiting with their partner, it is very important to support them and not push them to rebel.
Methods of prevention
Prevention is crucial in reducing and preventing cases of domestic violence. That is why it is important to be informed and to educate the next generations not only in maintaining family values, but also how to recognize the signs of domestic violence and not to tolerate it. The victim should not tolerate, but as soon as possible take measures to limit contact with the abuser.
It is time to put an end to domestic violence!
The team of “Dokova & Dokov for the Future” Foundation fights for the prevention of cases of domestic violence, as well as for the provision of timely and reliable assistance to women and children, suffering from abuse at home. If you are sympathetic to our causes, don’t stop spreading the word about domestic violence. You can contact us if you are interested in volunteering for our upcoming donation projects.