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Caught in the cycle of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is never an isolated incident – over time, the violence can affect witnesses, especially children. Research by Unicef (2006) entitled 'Behind Closed Doors', shows that children who witness violence are more likely to become victims of abuse when they grow up, and sometimes, even become abusive themselves. This is known as the ‘cycle of violence’, and it can be a difficult cycle to break.


The following domestic abuse story is true and bravely contributed by one of our TENUK volunteers. Some language in this post may be upsetting:


It usually happened when we had been drinking and would come back to our flat and get into an argument. It was always really petty stuff. He would take something way out of context, or make a huge deal and get angry about something – I think to most people it would seem like a ridiculous overreaction. Something like burnt toast, or the dinner not being up to his standards.


He would say, or shout, things like, ‘why do you always have to f**k things up, why can’t you get this one thing right, you’re a sh*t girlfriend, what’s wrong with you? It’s not hard, just don’t f**k it up. You always have to ruin it, don’t you? For f**k’s sake, I’m tired, I’ve been working all day, all I want to do is come home and eat my dinner, but I can’t can I, because once again you’ve f**ked it up like you always do.’


At this point, I would try and defend myself, but that never went down well. At that point, it would become physical.


The third party to abuse:


My ex, Russ, had been a third party to domestic abuse when he was younger – his mum had an abusive partner. Russ would do anything for his mum. As he grew up he became his mother’s support. Her other friends and family seemed to ignore the situation she was dealing with. She had previously tried calling domestic abuse helplines, but due to most of the incidences happening at night or in the evenings, most charities were closed. Local charities didn’t have the resources to offer 24hr assistance back then.


Russ’s mum relied on him. He didn’t know how to help, except put her up for a night before she would have to go back home. Russ hated this man for what he was doing to his mum – he despised him. He had no idea what to do or how to help and obviously didn’t realise how being a third party was affecting him.


I think if there had been more support for Russ while his mum was in an abusive relationship, or if he could have sought help easily and anonymously, it would have helped. I don’t know if Russ’s behaviour was caused by what had happened to his mum, but I never thought that he would become just like her abusive partner – or that it would start to affect me, too.


Eventually, I moved out. I had started to become much more aggressive, which is a side of me I have never seen before. I know it sounds silly, but in a way, I could cope with him – but when I saw it starting to turn me into an aggressive person, I knew I didn’t want to become like that. When two people who are supposed to love each other are physically hurting each other, it’s not ok – and not a mentally healthy place to be. I never thought about getting help, as I didn’t think it was as bad as other cases. I felt like I could deal with it, and to a certain extent, I could.


Who knows – if Russ was educated and supported when he had been a witness to abuse, he maybe he would have turned out differently.


At The Empowerment Network UK, we think helping third parties who live with abuse can make a difference – and that by supporting them, we can break the cycle of domestic abuse.



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