Domestic Abuse

What is domestic abuse?

Read on for information about domestic abuse under UK law, and how to access support.

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What is domestic abuse?
What is domestic abuse?

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is when a person’s behaviour is designed to control their partner, relative, or someone they are personally connected with (when both people are over the age of 16). Both the person being abusive (the perpetrator) and the person being abused can be any ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, or have any religious belief set.

‘Personally connected’ means that the perpetrator and person they are abusing are - or have previously been - in an intimate personal relationship, or they have a familial (e.g. blood, step, or adopted) relationship with each other.  

What can domestic abuse involve?

Behaviour is considered abusive if it consists of any of the following:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse (e.g. when the perpetrator forces or demands sexual acts and/or intercourse)
  • violent or threatening behaviour
  • controlling or coercive behaviour (e.g. when the perpetrator prevents the person from seeing friends or family)
  • economic abuse (controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use, or maintain money, property, goods, or services)
  • psychological or emotional abuse
  • honour based violence
  • forced marriage

Domestic abuse isn’t just when a person develops a pattern of abusive behaviours; even if the behaviour is a single incident, it is still domestic abuse. It is common for people experiencing abuse to think the behaviour was just a one-off, or believe that it is their fault they are being abused. However, it is not your fault; nobody deserves to be abused, and it is possible to have a life free from abuse.

If you, or someone you know, has been experiencing any of the above, you can find services in your local area here. If you need urgent support, Get Help Now.

Am I being abused?

Read this section if you are concerned that you or someone you know might be experiencing domestic abuse.

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Am I being abused?

Domestic abuse tends to be portrayed in the media in a certain way, however domestic abuse is not always about violence.

There are other forms of abuse that can be used to control someone which are now considered by law to be abusive, such as when the perpetrator constantly demeans the person, or is restricting their access to money or other people.

IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services) has created a Domestic Abuse Checklist describing different types of behaviour that are considered abusive. If you feel that you or someone close to you may be experiencing abuse, you can read through the full list here.

Some examples are:

  • The person is criticising you, putting you down, or calling you names
  • The person prevents you from seeing family and friends
  • The person is making you feel afraid for the safety of yourself and/or your child(ren), or threatening to take your child(ren) away from you if you leave the person
  • The person is forcing you to participate in sexual acts, with them and/or other people, that you are not comfortable with
  • The person is restricting your access to money, work, or education
  • The person is pressuring you to comply with a religious or cultural practice that you do not agree with or might cause you harm

If it feels as if any apply to you, read our section below on how to get help. It is important to understand that domestic abuse is never the fault of the person being abused. If you need urgent support, you can Get Help Now.

How can I manage or get away from the situation?

How can I manage or get away from the situation?

In an emergency, or if you are in immediate danger, call 999.

If you do not want the perpetrator to know you are seeking help, go to our Get Help Now page to find ways to ask for help without it being obvious to anyone with you.

Leaving an abusive situation can be difficult or frightening, and you may feel it is too dangerous to leave the person. However, your wellbeing is important and there are ways to get help safely. You may feel you are not prepared to leave for other reasons, and it’s OK if you don’t feel ready yet. There is still a lot of support available to help you manage in the situation.

Your GP can talk things over with you if you feel comfortable speaking to them, and you can receive confidential support and advice from a specialist service, a counsellor, or your local community police service. it is important to feel in control of this part of your experience and these services aim to respect that as much as possible.

Read on to find contact details for some services that may be helpful for you.

Here are some services offering support:

Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline

Free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day

Call 0808 2000 247 or contact them via live chat or the contact form


Survivors’ Network

Experienced support, advice, and counselling for survivors of sexual violence and abuse in Sussex

Call 01273 203380 or access support via email or an online group (in-person groups on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions)


Men’s Advice Helpline

Emotional support, practical advice and information for men experiencing domestic abuse 

Call 0808 8010327 or contact them via email or web chat


Galop – LGBT+ anti-violence charity

Information, support, and guidance for LGBT+ survivors of domestic abuse

Call 0800 999 5428 or use their safe, anonymous online forum

To report a hate crime, call 020 7704 2040


You can find more services in your local area by clicking here.

Am I abusive?

Read this section if you are concerned that you might be being abusive to someone close to you.

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Am I abusive?

Are you worried that you are abusive?

It is very difficult to think of ourselves in terms such as being abusive, but sometimes we need to think about our behaviour and the effect it is having on others. Think about how you behave around those close to you, and how they respond to you and your behaviour. Do any of the following apply?

  • Have you ever hit your partner, or someone close to you?
  • Is your partner or someone close to you ever scared of you?
  • Do you struggle with controlling your anger?
  • Do you feel you need to be in control of what someone else does, or how they use their money?
  • Do you feel that someone should be forced to comply with certain religious or cultural practices that they do not want to undertake?
  • Do you feel the need to know what someone is doing every moment you are apart?
  • Do you call someone names and make them feel bad about themselves?

If it feels like any of these apply to you, then help is available. Acknowledging that your behaviour is abusive is the first step towards making changes and building better relationships with others. Respect works with perpetrators by offering a range of interventions and opportunities for meaningful change. You can find more information here.

You may want to consider seeking support from counselling and other mental health services, or it may be helpful to speak to your GP if there are other factors that may be contributing to your behaviour (e.g substance misuse). If you are experiencing issues with substance use, you can find information and support here, or search for services in your local area on our 'Speak to someone' page..

I am struggling with a past experience of abuse – can I still get help?

Read this section if you have previously experienced or witnessed abuse and you are seeking further support.

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I am struggling with a past experience of abuse – can I still get help?
I am no longer in an abusive situation, or I previously witnessed abuse, and I am still struggling.

I am no longer in an abusive situation, or I previously witnessed abuse, and I am still struggling.

The effects of domestic abuse, like any traumatic event, can reach far beyond the situation itself. It can also have adverse effects on other people who fear that someone they know is being abused, or people who witness abuse happening.

It is not unusual to have feelings of anxiety and fear, even when you are safer than you have ever been. You might have flashbacks, or nightmares, and might have trouble relating to people or learning to trust people.

As well as physical injury, survivors of domestic abuse can face issues such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), as well as anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. This can also apply to people who witness abuse in the home (e.g. during childhood) and the impact of domestic abuse is different for everyone.

If you feel you, or someone else, may be experiencing PTSD, you can find more information on the NHS website.

Even if you are no longer in the abusive situation, you can still seek support for how you are feeling. There are many services available, including those that specialise in recognising and addressing post trauma conditions.

Specialist support is available from services such as Victim Support, Survivors’ Network, or The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC).

Remember: what happened was not your fault, no matter how much someone may have worked to convince you that it was, and you are allowed to ask for help.

Get Help

Get Help

If you have experienced physical or sexual violence, or are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

If you need to get help secretly, you can use the police’s Silent Alert system. This prompts 999 callers to press 55 on their mobile device to indicate that they are unable to speak.

If you are unable to contact the police for any reason, you can Ask for 'ANI' in many pharmacies (including Boots) displaying the poster and a member of staff will take you to a private consultation room to help you.

You can also Ask for 'Angela’ in hospitality venues across the UK displaying the poster and a staff member will help you to discreetly get out of the situation.

For non-urgent support, information, and advice, you can search for services in your local area here.

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