Answering 3 common questions about abusive relationships

This information is shared directly from the Samaritans Oi App in timing with White Ribbon Day – download the app today to learn more, join the community and be a voice against abuse.

I want to tell someone about the things happening in my relationship but I am scared that will only make the abuse worse. What should I do?

Sometimes it’s easy to feel like friends or family won’t approve of your relationship if they know that your partner treats you badly. It is common to worry about what friends or family might say to your partner and what might happen if they get involved.

It’s important to remember that friends and family care about you and want to make sure that you are safe. Think about someone that you trust and that you feel like you can talk to about your situation. Perhaps it’s a teacher or a workmate. If you don’t feel ready for that, there is a list of contacts who you can speak with anonymously who can give you advice and let you know where to go to get the right help.

If you are in immediate danger, call the police because your safety is the first priority.

Does what I’m experiencing count as abuse?

Any behaviour used to gain and maintain power and control over another person, is abuse. Many people assume that abuse is when physical violence is happening, but this is not always the case. There are often multiple types of abuse occurring in relationships that are just not OK.

For example:

  • Physical Abuse: intentional and unwelcome contact between people which may include pushing, hitting, throwing objects at a person, threat using a weapon or any unwanted physical advances that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Emotional & Verbal Abuse: using language and threatening behaviour to humiliate, intimidate, isolate or bully a person. This might include yelling, name-calling, telling you what to do, say and wear. Blame, intentional embarrassment, starting rumours and making false accusations about you are all forms of emotional and verbal abuse.
  • Sexual Abuse: unwanted physical advances or pressure to participate in a sexual activity when you do not feel comfortable. This may include unwanted kissing, touching, forcing a person to participate in any sexual acts when they do not want to, having sex with someone who is unable to give consent, rape or attempted rape.
  • Financial Abuse: controlling your use of money, spending or threatening behaviour that is manipulative and intimidating. It might include stealing your money, monitoring spending or bank accounts, denying you access to money that you have earned, giving you presents but expecting to be repaid or using your money without your consent or knowledge.
  • Digital Abuse: this includes intimidation and harassment that occurs using technology. This might include social media and texting. It is considered digital abuse when a person uses technology to control, harass or influence you. It might involve threatening behaviour, sending unwanted explicit photos, insisting on having your passwords so that they can monitor your accounts or stalking behaviour to know where you are at any given time.
  • Stalking: this includes any behaviour perceived to be threatening when a person watches, follows or monitors you to make you feel unsafe. Stalking may include waiting for you at your house, school or workplace when uninvited or unwanted, calling your friends or family to find out where you are, using technology to track you, sending you unwanted gifts or damaging your property to create fear.
  • Creating fear: any behaviour that threatens, scares or panics you that may result in power or control for the person inciting the abuse. It could involve stalking behaviours, physical or verbal threats or damage to property that creates anxiety or makes you feel nervous.
  • Social Abuse: behaviour that impacts on your social life through public intimidation, bullying or embarrassment. Controlling who you can and cannot talk to, repeated attempts to embarrass you in front of your peers or stopping you from attending an event that you want to go to, and restricting your contact with friends, is all social abuse.
  • Intimidation: behaviour that pressures you into doing something that you don’t want to do by exerting power or influence. Examples might include verbal threats such as “if you don’t, I will…”, or physical threats such as unwanted advances in your personal space, threatening to punch you or standing over you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Psychological Abuse: sometimes referred to as ‘gas lighting’. This is a form of manipulation that seeks to place doubt in your mind. It aims to make you question your own memory, perception and sanity. This is commonly done by using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction and lying. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting you.

What will happen if I report abuse to the police?

If you are not comfortable going straight to the police to talk about your situation, you could talk to a friend, family member or someone from a support service listed in our Get Help section.

It is important that if you are in immediate danger or you have been sexually assaulted, that you consider making a report as soon as possible so that you can be safe.

If you call the Police or 1800 RESPECT to report abuse, all information you give will be kept confidential including your identity. The Police or the authorities may investigate what is happening. If they are worried about your safety, a court order can be made preventing the person from hurting you, such as an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).

If you attend a police station, you can request to speak to a male or female police officer who will take you to a private area and explain the process to you. You will be offered a support person as a detective works with you to compile evidence and you are allowed to bring someone you trust if it helps. The police can arrange for urgent medical treatment or collection of evidence, if required. If possible, do not wash, eat or drink. If you change your clothes, do not wash them. Put them in a bag to give to the police.

If sexual assault happened recently it’s important that you contact the Rape Crisis Centre to be directed to the most appropriate health facility for evidence to be collected. Evidence is best collected within 72 hours of the sexual assault, but can be collected up to a week later. Evidence can be held for as long as you want, and should only be used to charge an offender with your consent. Evidence can be used if an offender is charged and may help you or someone else who is threatened.

If you are under the age of 18 years, a report will also need to be made to Community Services who will need to make sure that you are safe at home, school and work.

If after making a report to police you decide not to go ahead with an investigation or charges, whilst your wishes may be taken into account, the police may continue with their investigation if they think it’s necessary.

 

Any kind of abuse is serious and no one deserves to experience it. If you recognise abuse, or the warning signs of abuse, you can always call, chat or text with someone who can help. If you recognise it in a loved one’s life, make sure that any approach to ask about their situation is in a safe space and that you let them know that you want to help and aren’t there to pass judgement.

Samaritans is not a crisis service. If you require immediate support or counsel, please phone lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, always phone 000.