Bystander Session 4 Domestic Violence & Abuse

We will be learning and working together as a group in this programme.

Some of the material we will be discussing will be sensitive and some of us will have had personal experience of the things we discuss.

We will all be respectful of personal emotions as we learn.

Please be aware that we will be talking about sensitive issues and issues that might have affected you or people you care about.

If you feel uncomfortable or upset it is fine to leave the space.

Facilitators will understand and are trained to help you. 

This is a bystander programme

Empowering you as bystanders to intervene to prevent violence

Warning: Domestic abuse victims need specialist support – do not try to influence a victim’s decisions about staying in, or leaving, an abusive relationship.

Stage 1: Noticing behaviour/ event

We need to understand/ learn about domestic violence and abuse in order to be able to notice situations and see behaviours/ events as potentially problematic.

A student writes…

“I was in a violent relationship for 3 years and felt totally alone; there is a stigma that violence happens only to people of a certain demographic….” 

NUS 2011, P.g. 25

Key facts:

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.

It happens in all kinds of relationships: heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Statistics show the vast majority of domestic violence incidents are carried out by men and experienced by women. 


Government Definition

‘Honour’ based abuse

- This definition includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, “a collection of practices (some criminal and some not) which are used to control behaviour within families [and communities] to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour”. 

HMIC (2014). 

- Female genital mutilation (FGM) - 20,000 girls at risk in UK every year. Thousands in UK – c.66,000 suffering consequences.

- Forced (not arranged) marriage: 40% of Forced Marriage cases in the UK involve victims aged 18-23. But cases rarely come to the attention of universities, meaning students struggling with forced marriage may miss a critical chance of finding support. 

Responses to Forced Marriage. London: LMU and FMU (p.12)

‘Honour’ based abuse – key features

- There are often multiple perpetrators (family, community).

- The perpetrators may describe the victim as a person who has committed an ‘honour crime’ through their behaviour.

- When perpetrators come from within the family it means the family home is not a safe place for victims.

Jasminder Sanghera, Karma Nirvana, 2014

Physical violence experienced by a student

“All of the first four [pushed, slapped, shoved or had hair pulled; something thrown at you; kicked, bitten, hit with a fist; choked, dragged, strangled or burnt] have happened to me whilst living with my ex- boyfriend during my 1st and 2nd year of uni, but I considered being choked the most dangerous. He also threatened me.”

(NUS 2011 p.16)

Some subtle and not so subtle signs of abuse. 

Is your friend…

- Being stopped from seeing friends & family

- Having their movements monitored (being checked up on)

- Having their phone & social media monitored

- Having their finances controlled

- Being put down in public

- Being told what to wear, how to behave

- “Walking on eggshells”

- Being coerced to have sex

- Being physically hurt

Domestic Abuse 1

Read through the role play in groups.

Designate a character to people in the group and discuss how you may personally act in that situation.

Recognising abuse: a student’s reflection

“I have had my thoughts about domestic violence in homosexual relationships. Although I am quite clear in my mind about what is violence and abuse in any…situation, I will admit that I failed to recognise the mistreatment that I was subjected to in an objective manner"

Online Abuse:

“Most stalking now includes an online element and stalkers will assist their offline activities with online tools as well. Stalking by ex-partners accounts for the largest group of victims" 

'Revenge porn’ - sharing private sexually explicit photographs / films without consent with the intention of causing distress is now a criminal offence 

(Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015s.33)


- Since the age of 16, almost 30 % of women and 17 % of men in England and Wales have experienced some form of domestic abuse.

- Both men and women can be perpetrators.

- Men more likely to be repeat offenders, men’s violence is more severe and tends to create a context of fear.

- Women are also more likely to have experienced multiple incidents of abuse. Indeed, 89% of those individuals who have been subject to 4 or more incidents of DA (same perpetrator) since the age of 16 are women.

- The average length of the abusive relationship is 5 years.

- Male victims report difficulties dealing with the emotional impact of abuse: “You’re used to not being open with your feelings. And it’s quite hard to communicate so you tend to keep things to yourself and they you know sort of eat away at you a bit so…” 

- Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual victims report that their sexuality is used as part of abuse, e.g. with threats to 'out' them. 

- Transgender victims of sexual violence identified it as a hidden issue in the trans-community, not talked about much, and was very unlikely to be reported.

- BME (Asian) women were anxious about reporting to support workers who were also Asian for fear that confidentiality would be breached to the wider community. 

- LGBT and BME individuals feared potential homophobic or racist reactions from service providers. 

Domestic Abuse 2

Read through the role play in groups.

Designate a character to people in the group and discuss how you may personally act in that situation.

Women are much more likely to be high risk victims:

96 percent of all high risk of serious harm or murder cases referred to (57,900 in 2012-2013) to MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference) were women. 


Domestic violence is rarely a one-off. Incidents generally become more frequent and severe over time


“So why don’t they just leave?”

Reasons it can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive partner:

- Fear what partner will do if they leave.

- Practical considerations (money, housing, children, language, isolation, where to go).

- People from different cultures can find it particularly difficult to leave an abusive relationship as this would bring shame on both themselves and their family. 

- They may feel like they are betraying their community if they contact the police.

- The self-esteem of a person being abused will have been steadily worn down so may feel there are no other options or cannot manage alone.

- Feel ashamed of what has happened and believe the abuse is their fault.

- Hope that partner will change (investment in relationship).

“I won’t judge you”

A student on being judged:

“I was in a violent relationship for 3 years and felt totally alone; there is a stigma that violence happens only to people of a certain demographic….When I spoke to my friends I always felt slightly judged, the classic ‘you are clever, why didn’t you leave’. Only now have I come to see that this was not my fault for being weak. I will never fully recover from this.”

(NUS 2011 p25)

Stage 2: Interpreting it as a problem

Domestic violence and abuse is not a problem that has been solved!

The increase in online abuse means the problem is going to get worse.

It is going on all around you in your community.

Stage 3: Being Part of the Solution

We all have a responsibility to speak out

- Domestic violence is a crime. It must not be ignored.

- Domestic violence is protected by people's silence. If we do not speak out against it, we become part of the problem.

- It hurts people who we care about.

Domestic violence affects us all

- Many victims suffer in silence. By reaching out to a friend, you can help break their isolation.

- People being abused need their friends more than ever.

- People being abused often do not realise that what they are experiencing is domestic violence. 

- You can help your friend to recognise the signs and be safe.

A student writes:

“Preconceptions of domestic violence are so deeply-rooted that people think it doesn't happen in student relationships. It also means that people generally have no idea how to handle the situation. I can now forgive friends who didn't know where to stand at the time, but educating students is vital if we wish to fully support sufferers.”


Mental Health Impact of Domestic Violence:

Studies affected

Relationships affected

Post-traumatic stress



Panic attacks

Sense of isolation

Loss of confidence

Suicidal thoughts

You are part of the solution

Domestic Abuse 3

Read through the role play in groups.

Designate a character to people in the group and discuss how you may personally act in that situation.

How might you challenge the cultural/ social context?

What situations might you notice as they occur?

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Bystander Session 4 Domestic Violence & Abuse

by sutraining


Public - 7/4/16, 9:23 AM