It is quite common in relationships for one partner to be dominant or more forceful than another. However, it is when the needs of one partner are not considered that the relationship may become or be considered abusive.

'Abusive' relationships can develop gradually and can usually be identified by patterns of behaviour featuring control and lack of respect for the other person. These may surface slowly and may at first be excused as jealousy or insecurity.  They can often arise from an intense need for love and affection and can initially seem to enforce the victim’s view of themselves in terms of worth.

Some or alll of the following situations will be present in an abusive relationship.

* There may be threats of physical violence including suicide

* There may be a wish to control behaviour and restrict freedom

* Criticism and put-downs become more and more the normality

* The needs of one person are seldom considered

Abusers are often needy and controlling and  act out deep-seated feelings of shame and inadequacy that pull the partner down to their level. Abusers often see themselves as the powerless victims of others’ behaviour and find it difficult to take responsibility for their actions.

Abuse can be a family dysfunction and is often a familiar pattern that both partners hook into. Cycles of abuse are often based on an intense need for love and affection, a terror of being abandoned, low self-esteem, isolation and drug or alcohol abuse.
Common traits of abusers are uncontrollable anger, jealousy, the need for power and inability to respect other people’s boundaries.

Some abusers partners have common traits of low self-esteem, or a background of being abused, or they may have difficulty expressing anger and show inappropriate loyalty.

Abusive relationships progress as the needs of one partner escalate and those of the other decrease. Thus the scale of the abuse tends to get worse rather than better.

What issues of abuse can therapy address?

* Counselling may help assess whether a relationship is abusive or just unbalanced.
* Entrenched abuse is not a suitable subject for working on as a couple.
* Individual counselling may be useful to the abused person, who may have difficulty detaching themselves from the partner’s behaviour.
* Counselling may help restore self-esteem and re-examine healthy ways of relating.
* Specialist agencies can offer support to perpetrators to examine their behaviour – counselling is not always appropriate for abusers.

There are often problems with taking responsibility for abusive behaviour; often the victim assuming blame and the abuser adopting a “poor me” stance.

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Domestic Violence:

Domestic violence refers to physical harm inflicted on one member of a household or family, by another member of the same household or family (usually between spouses). Domestic violence (sometimes called "spousal abuse") usually involves repetitive physical and psychological abuse, and a "cycle of violence". Specific crimes charged vary based on 1) severity of the victim's injuries, 2) whether a minor was present, and 3) whether a protective or restraining order was violated.

Abuse suffered in this way may be psychological, sexual, emotional or financial. It maintains power and control of one person over another. Most victims are women, but men suffer, too. People in same-sex relationships also suffer. Over 100 women each year and 30 men die as a result of domestic violence in UK. It is not restricted to the poor or unemployed but exists right across society.

It has remained a ‘hidden crime’ for many years until the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act of 2004 when Police and agencies were given new, more effective policies to tackle it. Many families have condoned Domestic Violence for generations.

Domestic violence can include:

* Verbal abuse
* Constant degrading and insults
* Continuously finding faults in a partner
* Threats
* Bullying
* Sexual abuse
* Physical abuse
* Punching, kicking
* Suffocating
* Homicide

Treatment and Help

Relationship or Individual Counselling may help you assess what to do about a violent relationship, but it is advisable to attend alone for safety reasons. Specialist agencies and Professionals are also available for help and support. Often counselling can give you the help and support you need to leave an abusive relationship.

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Child Abuse:

Statistics show that every year thousands of children are abused physically by a parent or someone they know. Child abuse is characterised by any actions of a carer that could potentially harm a child’s mental or physical health. Research shows that many aggressors were abused themselves as children. The main areas of child abuse are Physiacal Sexual Emotional Exploitive and Neglect.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often face problems in their relationships, and much help and support is available. Individual or Couple Counselling can help to address issues of trust and anger that may resurface in later life which may threaten an otherwise good relationship and may help address sexual problems relating to earlier abuse.

Further Help

* Childline