Domestic violence and intimate partner violence is any form of mental, physical or sexual violence between people who are currently or have ever been in an intimate relationship. In addition to spouses and partners, violence by a close person against a child, an elderly person or a person with a disability also falls under here.
Violence can affect both women and men, as well as children and the elderly. In the most common cases, the man uses violence against a female family member, especially against a spouse or partner. This is why, for many women, the most unsafe place is their home. Assault of any kind is a criminal offence both inside and outside the home.
Often the person who hurts us the most is the person who ‘cares’ about us the most. This makes it difficult to seek help, because we can simultaneously fear, hate and love the abuser.
Women are the main victims of intimate partner violence because they are often physically and economically weaker than men. However, men can also suffer from intimate partner violence. It is important that people have the courage to seek help, regardless of their gender.
How does violence manifest?
- Physical violence involves one person physically hurting another: hitting, burning, strangling, etc. Physical violence is the easiest to recognise.
- Psychological violence is characterised by fear of the abuser. This includes emotional abuse that involves undermining the dignity of another person. Often, the abuser isolates the person from friends, family, school and work.
- Sexual violence is when a person forces another person to perform sexual acts against their will.
- In the case of economic violence, one person makes another financially dependent on themselves, for example by controlling a bank account or forbidding someone to go to work or school.
Often, the person who suffers from violence feels guilty about what happened, which makes it difficult for them to talk about what is happening. But tolerating violence is not the solution. Violence also takes many different forms, which is why it is sometimes difficult to recognise. Consult our specialists as soon as you feel something is wrong in your intimate relationship or family.
Call the Social Insurance Board’s victim support helpline 116 006 or find your nearest women’s support centre or sexual violence crisis centre.
How do you help a loved one in an abusive relationship?
A person in a violent relationship feels lonely and scared. This is why you need to recognise the signs of an abusive intimate relationship and be there to support them. Encourage the person to talk about their concerns, express your concern, support them and encourage them. If you feel that your knowledge is lacking, consult the police or a victim support worker.
How to protect yourself in a violent relationship?
- If you feel that the situation is dangerous for you, immediately call the Emergency Response Centre on 112. Do not be afraid to call the police – you can save yourself and your children from violence.
- Think about your own safety and that of your children. Discuss your safety and escape plan with a trusted person. A victim support worker or a member of staff at a women’s support centre, for example, can help you prepare a safety plan. It is a good idea to make the plan in a safe place, as you may be in a state of shock when the violence happens.
- When you are drawing up a safety plan, also consider already going to a safe place today.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel threatened, you probably are. Sometimes, the behaviour of the abuser shows signs that they may become upset and use violence. Pack your essential items and, if possible, set aside enough money. Leave these items with a friend or at work. Be ready to leave at the earliest opportunity for a safe place, such as a women’s shelter.
- Agree on a call for help or password (SMS, agreed icon on Facebook) with your loved ones to safely let them know that you are at risk. Also agree on a password with your children.
- In the case of an injury, make sure to get medical attention as soon as possible. Injuries may be more serious than you think.
- You should also consult a doctor, who will record the injuries and collect the necessary samples. It is important for this to be done as quickly as possible so that the doctor can get as much evidence as possible. Make sure that your doctor documents your injuries. If you do not want to see a doctor or are unsure about reporting it to the police, take a picture of your injuries. This way, you can record the time when the injuries occurred.
- Keep a diary. Note down the dates of violence and threats.
- Keep evidence where possible. Keep threatening letters, e-mails, medical certificates, SMS messages, etc.
- Also talk to children about violence in the home and teach them who to contact if they are with the abuser and are afraid.
- Talk to your best friend or someone you really trust about your concern.
- Seek help from organisations or associations that can help you, such as the police on 112, the Social Insurance Board’s victim support helpline 116 006, women’s support centres, and the abuser helpline 6 606 077.
- If you do decide to leave your partner, think carefully about every step – what you will do the next time they call you, when you get together, when they turn up at your door, etc. Be as concrete as possible and avoid lengthy explanations. If your partner continues to contact you in a disturbing way, tell them again in writing that you do not want to communicate with them. If the harassment continues, you can always contact the police and make a report on stalking in a harassing manner.
- Do not think that everything is your fault. The abuser is responsible for their own behaviour. You cannot change them, and only a professional and the abuser themselves can help them.
- Be aware that the abuser may do anything to win you back. However, this does not mean that the violence will disappear – it will happen again later and the violence will only increase.
The Social Insurance Board’s victim support helpline 116 006 is available 24/7 to listen to you and offer advice and support. You can also chat with us online at www.palunabi.ee. In case of emergency, call the emergency services on 112. Find your nearest victim support worker or women’s support centre here.