If you’re currently in a relationship and you feel like you’re being cut off from your friends, family or local community, then you may be suffering from a form of domestic violence known as social abuse.
What is social abuse?
Social abuse can take many forms. However, the intention is usually to cut you off from your friends, your family or your social circle. This may include a perpetrator preventing you from leaving the house or forbidding you from seeing certain people.
As well as preventing you from seeing certain people, the person committing social abuse may also be actively trying to damage your relationship by spreading malicious rumours in an attempt to ruin your reputation.
Due to the wide social abuse definition within the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, it can be hard to pin down exactly when social abuse occurs. As a result, although social abuse commonly takes place in the home, it may also occur out in public, over the phone, on the internet and on social media.
Often, social abuse takes place over a lengthy period of time, rather than being a one-off action. This means that there’s usually a pattern to the behaviour. Usually, the person committing social abuse is trying to scare or control you.
Sadly, social abuse is one of the most nebulous forms of abuse and it’s hard to provide a social abuse definition that covers all aspects of the abuse. In addition, because many of the acts involved are small, it’s easy for some people to brush aside or ignore. However, if you think you’re in a socially abusive situation, you should speak to a lawyer immediately to discuss your rights.
Who commits social abuse?
Social abuse is usually committed by someone close to you. This may be your:
- Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife;
- Ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-partner, ex-husband or ex-wife;
- Family, such as your parent or guardian;
- Adult children;
- Carer or paid support worker;
- Anyone else that you either live with or see often.
Who can obtain a Domestic Violence Order to stop social abuse?
Domestic or family violence refers to violence, abuse and/or intimidation between people who are currently or have previously been in a ‘relevant relationship’.
In order to apply for a Domestic Violence Order in Queensland, you need to be in a ‘relevant relationship’ with the perpetrator (known legally as the defendant). These relationships are defined by the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, which states that relevant relationships include:
- Spousal relationships, including de facto relationships, biological parents of a child and same-sex couples;
- Family relationships, including relations by blood or marriage and cultural relationships;
- Informal care relationships, including unpaid carers who assist with day-to-day living arrangements.
If you are not in a ‘relevant relationship’ and do not qualify for protection under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, there are other options available to you for seeking protection and we would encourage you to contact the police to discuss your options.
If you are in a ‘relevant relationship’, you should speak to an experienced family lawyer who will be able to explain your rights and outline how you could possibly free yourself from the situation with the help of the law.
Social abuse signs
Social abuse can take many forms. Depending on your situation, the actions can be really subtle, and you may believe that a jokey situation has simply got out of hand. Alternatively, your abuser may make a deliberate attempt to control who you socialise with by forbidding you from leaving the house. Common social abuse signs include someone stopping you:
- Seeing your friends, family or attending social events;
- Leaving the home (or a room within it); or
- Attending social and community events.
They may also want extra information on your diary, such as:
- Always needing to know where you’ve been or where you’re going; or
- Asking who you’re seeing and why.
The perpetrator may also:
- Check or interfere with your phone or laptop;
- Read your emails, social media posts and text messages;
- Share private information or photos without your permission (either with their friends or on social media);
- Spread lies or damaging information about you, either to your family and friends or via social media;
- Deliberately do things that make you look bad, such as embarrassing you in front of others;
- Restrict access to your car or any other form of transport.
If you spot several of these social abuse examples, then you may be in a socially abusive relationship.
Leaving an abusive relationship
Socially abusive behaviour can be difficult to detect. Because it’s often subtle, you may find that your abuser denies their behaviour or claims that they are ‘just joking’. However, socially abusive people are often incredibly clever in the way that they carry out their abuse and they may leave you feeling as if you have no course of action or no way of escaping; especially if they’ve turned your family and friends against you. If you feel like you’re in an abusive relationship and you want to protect yourself from your abuser’s control, we can explain your rights and discuss your options with you.
You are always one decision away from a totally different life.