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How to recognise domestic abuse 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. It’s not limited to physical violence and it can happen to anyone.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse – also called domestic violence – can take many forms. It involves controlling, coercive, abusive, or violent treatment from someone you’re in a relationship with, have been in a relationship with, or someone who is a family member.

The abuse can be physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, emotional, or financial. It might be a one-off occurrence but it’s often a series of incidents that occur over a period of time.

 

Recognising domestic abuse

It’s not always clear whether a person’s actions are abusive and every situation is different, but there are common factors experienced by people who are in an abusive relationship.

If you identify with any of the following, you might be experiencing domestic abuse:

  • Physical abuse

    Does someone:

    • Hit, slap or punch you?
    • Push or pull you around?
    • Throw things at you?
    • Burn or scald you?
  • Emotional abuse

    Does someone:

    • Make you feel guilty or blameworthy for things?
    • Manipulate you into doing things you don’t want to do?
    • Do things to upset you out of spite, anger, or other reasons?
    • Tell you what you can and can’t do?
  • Psychological abuse

    Does someone:

    • Belittle or undermine you?
    • Make unfounded accusations about you?
    • Do things to frighten or unsettle you?
    • Isolate or exclude you from meaningful events?
  • Verbal abuse

    Does someone:

    • Threaten you, your friends or family members?
    • Demand to know your whereabouts?
    • Make derogatory comments about you?
    • Swear at you or call you names?
  • Sexual abuse

    Does someone:

    • Make unwanted physical contact with you?
    • Demand that you perform sexual acts against your wishes?
    • Pressurise you to have sex?
    • Force you not to use birth control or to terminate a pregnancy?
  • Financial abuse

    Does someone:

    • Use money to control or influence you?
    • Steal or withhold money from you?
    • Limit your access to money?
    • Demand access to your money or bank account?

Effects of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can impact mental health – which may be short-term or long-term. Mental health effects of domestic abuse include:

Isolation: This is a state of feeling alone where you may feel like shutting people out – not wanting to interact with people.

Depression: Depression is a common and serious medical illness that causes feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure – affecting the way you feel, think and act.

Anxiety: This is a persistent feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, which can persist for prolonged periods and affect your day-to-day life.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This is a form of anxiety, which can result from a frightening or traumatic experience. You may have negative thoughts, difficulty sleeping or have trouble remembering things.

Other health problems that may result from domestic violence include:

  • Stress
  • Chronic pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Digestive problems

If you think you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, try talking to your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible.

 

Getting help and support

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, there are things you can do:

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Report the abuse to the police
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline for free on 0808 200 0247, available 24 hours a day for women and children
  • Call the Men’s Advice Line for free on 0808 801 0327, available Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm
  • Call Galop's National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline for free on 0800 999 5428, available between 10am to 5pm on Monday and Tuesday, 10am to 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and 10am to 5pm on Friday
  • If you’d like to talk to someone for help with domestic abuse, please call our free helpline on 0800 0234 834. Our advisors are available, Monday to Friday from 9am - 5pm (except bank holidays) to give you some confidential advice and guidance.
  • Talk to a friend or family member you trust for support.

If you decide to leave


Recognising you’re in an abusive relationship is the first step in escaping it. Always remember that you’re not alone and it’s not your fault. One of the most difficult choices you can make is deciding to leave an abusive relationship. 

If you decide to leave, be careful who you disclose this information to. It’s important that the abuser doesn’t learn of your decision to exit the relationship before it happens or know where you’re going.
  • Before you leave

    Before you leave, give careful thought to any logistical, financial, and living arrangements you need to make. 
  • How can I plan to leave and keep myself safe

    You may find the list below useful to help you prepare:

    • Identify a friend or friends you can trust and safe places you can go to.
    • Create a secret code word to use with friends or family to signal that you are in danger
    • Memorise the phone numbers of any friends or family members you may want to get in touch with after you have left

    You may also find it useful to take with you some items from the list below:

    • Identity documents and important paperwork (e.g. passports, birth certificates, bank account details, bank statements, benefit records, medical cards, marriage certificate, court orders, vehicle log book)
    • Cash and bank cards
    • Phone numbers for use in an emergency, and of personal contacts – make sure your phone is fully charged
    • A spare set of keys for your home and car
    • Medication and toiletries
    • Clothing for a few days
    • Evidence of domestic abuse (e.g. photos, recordings, crime reference numbers)

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