Of those who said they had not been in an abusive relationship, almost two-thirds had experienced at least one potentially abusive behaviour from their partner.
Content Warning: This article discusses domestic violence
When you hear the term ‘domestic abuse’ or ‘domestic violence,’ what do you think of? The first memory I have of learning about abuse was when watching Eastenders in the early noughties – in particular, stories around Morgan ‘Little Mo’ Mitchell. Albert Square regular ‘Little Mo’ was married to the physically and emotionally abusive ‘Trevor,’ in a storyline that played out over multiple years.
In many ways, Little Mo became the image of what I thought an abused woman was – vulnerable, trapped in a long-term relationship, being regularly beaten and bruised by an aggressive male partner, but so scared of what might happen that she is unable to leave. That was until later in life, when I began to experience abuse myself.
The problem is, whilst this is a realistic description of abuse for some people, it isn’t how every survivor has experienced or is experiencing domestic abuse. Abuse can come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and means.
Last month, new research released by Cosmopolitan magazine and Women’s Aid showed that two-thirds of women who said they’d never been in an abusive relationship had in fact experienced abusive behaviour from a partner. This paints a worrying picture of what women – the and wider society – recognise as abuse.
Cosmopolitan surveyed more than 122,000 people to find out more about the health of their relationships past and present. More than a third of respondents said they had been in an abusive relationship. Of those who said they had not been in an abusive relationship, almost two-thirds had experienced at least one potentially abusive behaviour from their partner.
For example, over half of respondents had experienced a partner making them feel bad about themselves with nasty comments. Nearly two-fifths of respondents had experienced a partner pressuring them into doing something sexual when they didn’t want to. Over a third of respondents had experienced a partner intimidating them by being physically aggressive towards them, and two-fifths of respondents had experienced a partner trying to stop them from socialising with people who are important to them.
Before I started working at Campaign Bootcamp, I had been involved in domestic violence campaigning and was awarded a scholarship to attend Bootcamp 10. Since graduating from Bootcamp last year, I’ve been volunteering and campaigning with Women’s Aid to raise awareness of domestic violence experienced by young women, as well as to improve access to services for young survivors.
I’ve been able to use the skills I learnt on Bootcamp in the development of a new Women’s Aid website, specifically designed for young people, have appeared in campaign videos, and have written articles and emails about my experiences as a survivor and as a campaigner. Last month I spoke on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and also did some filming work with fitness blogger and Instagram guru Alice Liveing, who is a keen supporter of Women’s Aid.
Bootcamp not only gave me hard skills to improve my domestic violence campaigning, but also connected me to some inspirational campaigners, activists or organisers who work or volunteer in this space. Contacts who have been supportive, provided me with ideas and feedback, and have been really friendly and willing to share! After talking to Sekai and Tamara-Jade, who were on the training and facilitation team at Bootcamp 10, and had organised with Sisters Uncut, I plucked up the courage to go to my first meeting!
It was also at Bootcamp that I first met Becca Bunce from the IC Change campaign. Just a week after Bootcamp I had been invited to a meeting in Parliament to discuss the Istanbul Convention with the IC Change team and members of other domestic violence organisations, including Southall Black Sisters.
After Bootcamp, I was also paired with a mentor from Agenda, an organisation whose mission is to ensure that women and girls at risk of abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction, and homelessness get the support and protection they need. The insight and help my mentor has offered has been invaluable, and on top of that, I’ve also made a good friend!
I’m proud to be an ambassador for an organisation that provides life-saving support to so many women, and grateful to Bootcamp for giving the confidence and knowledge I needed to do this.
Click here for more information on the Women’s Aid X Cosmopolitan survey. If you need any help or support with violent or controlling relationships, or are worried about a friend, contact the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. The phone number for the Helpline is 0808 2000 247.