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What is Domestic Violence and Abuse?

What is Domestic Violence and Abuse?


When people think of domestic abuse, they often focus on domestic violence. But domestic abuse includes any attempt by one person in an intimate relationship or marriage to dominate and control the other. Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you.

An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” An abuser uses fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb.

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone; it does not discriminate. Abuse happens within heterosexual relationships and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more often victimized, men also experience abuse - especially verbal and emotional. The bottom line is that abusive behaviour is never acceptable, whether from a man, woman, teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal assault to violence. And while physical injury may pose the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone.

No one should have to endure this kind of pain - and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your relationship is abusive.


There are many signs of an abusive relationship, and a fear of your partner is the most telling. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them - constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up - chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you are in an abusive relationship.

Are you in an abusive relationship?

Your inner thoughts and feelings

Do you:

  • feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Your partner’s belittling behaviour

Does your partner:

  • humiliate or yell at you?
  • criticize you and put you down?
  • treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • blame you for their own abusive behaviour?
  • see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your partner’s violent behaviour or threats

Does your partner:

  • have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • force you to have sex?
  • destroy your belongings?
Your partner’s controlling behaviour

Does your partner:

  • act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • control where you go or what you do?
  • keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • constantly check up on you?


Physical abuse occurs when physical force is used against you in a way that injures or endangers you. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of a family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from a physical attack.

Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and domestic violence. Furthermore, people whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed. 


If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or that the person might not want to talk about it - keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save their life. 

Talk to the person in private and let them know that you’re concerned. Point out the signs you’ve noticed that worry you. Tell the person that you’re there for them, whenever they feel ready to talk.

Reassure them that you will keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let them know that you will help in any way you can. 

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally or physically abused are often depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help getting out of the situation, yet their partner has often isolated them from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing. 


If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you can’t speak and are calling on a mobile press 55 to have your call transferred to the police. 

Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge:

Tel: 0808 2000 247 - free at any time - day or night. 

Contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence:

Tel: 0800 9702 070

Text: NCDV to 60777

Email: office@ncdv.org.uk   

For female victims of domestic violence, contact by email:

helpline@womensaid.org.uk or through: 

Live Chat: https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/ (Monday to Friday 8am-6pm/Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm).

For male victims of domestic violence, contact:

M.A.L.E: Men's Advice Line & Enquiries
Confidential helpline for male victims of domestic violence 

Tel: 0808 8010 327 

Email: info@mensadviceline.org.uk

Men can also call Mankind:

Tel: 0182 3334 244 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm). 

If you identify at LGBT+ you can call Galop on:

Tel: 0800 0995 428

Email help@galop.co.uk  

For force marriage and honour crimes, anyone can call Karma Nirvana:

Tel: 0800 5999 247 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).

You can also call 020 7008 0151 to speak to the GOV.UK Force Marriage Unit.

If you are worried that you are abusive, you can contact the free Respect Helpline:

Tel: 0808 8024 040