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Domestic violence or abuse can happen to anyone. Find out how to recognise the signs and where to get help. 

Domestic violence, also called domestic abuse, includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse in couple relationships or between family members. Domestic violence can happen against anyone, and anybody can be an abuser.

Extra support during COVID-19

Advice to self-isolate due to COVID-19 does not apply if you need to escape from domestic abuse.

You can find help and support for domestic abuse during COVID-19 on GOV.UK

Signs of domestic violence and abuse

Emotional abuse

Does your partner ever:

  • Belittle you, or put you down
  • Blame you for the abuse or arguments
  • Deny that abuse is happening, or downplay it
  • Isolate you from your family and friends
  • Stop you going to college or work
  • Make unreasonable demands for your attention
  • Accuse you of flirting or having affairs
  • Tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go and what to think
  • Control your money, or not give you enough to buy food or other essential things
  • Monitor your social media profiles, share photos or videos of you without your consent or use GPS locators to know where you are

Threats and intimidation

Does your partner ever:

  • Threaten to hurt or kill you
  • Destroy things that belong to you
  • Stand over you, invade your personal space
  • Threaten to kill themselves or the children
  • Read your emails, texts or letters
  • Harass or follow you

Physical abuse

The person abusing you may hurt you in a number of ways

Does your partner ever

  • Slap, hit or punch you
  • Push or shove you
  • Bite or kick you
  • Burn you
  • Choke you or hold you down
  • Throw things

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone

Does your partner ever:

  • Touch you in a way you don’t want to be touched
  • Make unwanted sexual demands
  • Hurt you during sex
  • Pressure you to have unsafe sex – for example, not using a condom
  • Pressure you to have sex

If your partner has sex with you when you do not want to, this is rape.

Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?

Have you every changed your behaviour because you’re afraid of what your partner might do?

If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, there are lots of people who can help you.

1 in 3 cases of domestic violence and abuse against women starts during pregnancy. If the relationship is already abusive, it can get worse.

Find out more about domestic abuse in pregnancy on the NHS website

If you decide to leave

The first step in escaping an abusive situation is realising that you’re not alone and it’s not your fault.

Before you go, try to get advice from an organisation such as:

If you’re considering leaving, be careful who you tell. It’s important your partner does not know where you are going.

Women’s Aid has useful information about making a safety plan that applies to both women and men, including advice if you decide to leave.

Helping a friend if they’re being abused

If you’re worried a friend is being abused, let them know you’ve noticed something is wrong.

They might not be ready to talk but try to find quiet times when they can talk if they choose to.

  • If someone confides in you that they’re suffering domestic abuse:
  • Listen, and take care not to blame them
  • Acknowledge it takes strength to talk to someone about experiencing abuse
  • Give them time to talk, but do not push them to talk if they do not want to
  • Acknowledge they’re in a frightening and difficult situation
  • Tell them nobody deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what the abuser has said
  • Support them as a friend, encourage them to express their feelings and allow them to make their own decisions
  • Do not tell them to leave the relationship if they’re not ready – that’s their decision
  • Ask if they have suffered physical harm and if they have, offer to go with them to a hospital or GP
  • Help them report the assault to the police if they choose to
  • Be ready to provide information about the organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse

Information from the NHS website is licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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