What is domestic abuse?
Domestic violence and abuse is a pattern of behaviour designed to achieve power and control over a partner, ex-partner or family member, regardless of gender or sexuality.
This is achieved through the use of physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse or through movement restriction and/or social isolation e.g. stopping you from seeing your family and or friends.
It might be love, it might be abuse.
Knowing the signs of domestic abuse
The signs of domestic abuse may not be as clear as you’d think – abuse can be about controlling someone’s mind and emotions as much as hurting their body.
Domestic abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
- Physical abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Emotional abuse
If you’re afraid of your partner, that’s a big red flag. You might be scared to say what you think, to address certain topics, or to say no to sex. No matter the reason, fear has no place in a healthy relationship.
Visit our What is Domestic Abuse? page to learn more about the signs that your relationship, or a relationship around you, might be unhealthy.
Are the signs different for men?
Signs of domestic abuse against men are often the same, and that’s true whether the abusive partner is a woman or man. It may be emotional or verbal – like taking away keys, medicines or other essentials, or constantly putting you down in public or on social media. It can also be physical. To make up for differences in strength, abusive partners may attack you in your sleep, by surprise or with weapons and other objects. They may also abuse your children of pets.
Are the signs different for the LGBTQ+ community?
Many of the signs of domestic abuse are often the same, but the abuse may also target sexual orientation or gender identity. Your abuser may:
- Make excuses for abuse, like it’s just how men are or that you wanted it to happen
- Tell you that police or others won’t help because of your gender or orientation
- Tell you that you’re not really how you identify
- Threaten to out you to family, friends, and others
Read Kirsty’s story
Kirsty Mellor shares her story of how she found the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Disclaimer: Kirsty’s story makes reference to physical, sexual and emotional abuse which some readers may find distressing.
What if someone I know is in an abusive relationship?
If you think a friend, family member or colleague is in an abusive relationship, try telling them that you’re concerned, say why you’re worried and ask if they want to talk to you about it. Let them know you want to help. You don’t have to know all the answers, and the important thing is to break the isolation.
Always prioritise safety – yours and theirs. The abuser won’t appreciate you getting involved so be careful about what you do and where and when you do it – be careful not to intervene personally and ring the police if there is immediate danger.
Support them in whatever decision he or she is currently making about their relationship while being clear that the abuse is wrong. Remember, what you are trying to do is be supportive, not to make them feel judged. It’s not always easy to just leave a relationship.
Stay in contact over time and help your friend, family member or colleague to explore what choices are on offer. Try to focus on their safety rather than the abuser or the relationship. Let them guide you in how best to support them.
Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault and that you are there for them. Remind them of their strengths, challenge them if they put themselves down or blame themselves, praise them for every step they take and let them know they have your support.
In an emergency situation always call 999 for help.
If you are safe, but need to report a crime such as criminal damage, physical violence or sexual violence, call the Police on 101.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need support, please get in touch with the Stop Domestic Abuse service, our domestic abuse team, for advice and support on 023 9206 5494 or by email. Our experienced specialist team is on hand to discuss your concerns and needs, 9am – 9pm Monday to Friday and 10am – 6pm weekends and bank holidays. Contact can be by phone or face-to-face in a safe location.
You might find the following links and videos useful. Please be aware that these videos contain sensitive footage and will not be appropriate for every age group. Adult discretion is advised – videos suitable for children are marked below.
- Domestic violence NHS: Two women describe their experiences of domestic abuse and how they found the strength and support to leave their situation.
- Domestic Abuse: Caught on Camera. A 27-minute Panorama documentary featuring Hampshire Constabulary and revealing harrowing footage and other evidence of domestic violent incidents.
- Right to Choose: The consequences of forced marriage. A UK government video which intends to highlight the devastating impact of forced marriage on both victims and families.
- Jasvinder Sanghera – My Story. A Home Office interview with Jasvinder Sanghera; a victim of honour based violence and forced marriage.
The following videos are suitable for teenagers but adult discretion is advised. Please watch first before showing to a child, or ask a trusted person to watch with you.
- Abuse in relationships: Would you stop yourself? A Home Office ‘This Is Abuse’ campaign aimed at teenagers highlighting abuse in younger relationships.
- Is It Love? A Film about abusive relationship. A short, animated film about abusive relationships, made up of interviews given by young victims of domestic violence who share their poignant stories openly and honestly.
- YungStar Fast Car Tracy Chapman Cover – Bridgend Women’s Aid. Showing domestic abuse between parents. This may be upsetting for some pupils to watch.