We may think of domestic violence as hitting, slapping and beating, but is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. It can also include emotional, financial and sexual abuse as well as forced marriages and so-called “honour crimes”. It is abuse if your partner or a family member:

  • threatens you
  • shoves or pushes you
  • makes you fear for your physical safety
  • puts you down, or attempts to undermine your self-esteem
  • controls you, for example by stopping you seeing your friends and family
  • is jealous and possessive, such as being suspicious of your friendships and conversations
  • frightens you.

One in four women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. This may take the form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse. Victims are likely to suffer repeated attacks before they ask for help.

Nearly a third of this abuse starts in pregnancy, and existing abuse may worsen during pregnancy or after birth. No one should have to put up with domestic abuse. It puts your health, and that of your baby, at risk, before and after birth.

Domestic abuse can happen in any relationship and it can happen to young people too. 1 in 5 teenagers have been physically abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends

Although it is less common, men may also be victims of an abusive relationship and can seek support through the links to the right.

How do I know if I am experiencing abuse?

If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you may be in an abusive relationship:

  • Has your partner tried to keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • Has your partner prevented you from continuing or starting a college course, or from going to work?
  • Does your partner constantly check up on you or follow you?
  • Does your partner accuse you unjustly of flirting or of having affairs?
  • Does your partner constantly belittle or humiliate you, or regularly criticise or insult you in front of other people?
  • Are you ever scared of your partner?
  • Have you ever changed your behaviour because you’re afraid of what your partner might do or say to you?
  • Has your partner ever deliberately destroyed any of your possessions?
  • Has your partner ever hurt or threatened you, your children or even your pet?
  • Has your partner ever kept you short of money so you’re unable to buy food and other necessary items for yourself and your children?
  • Has your partner ever forced you to do something that you really didn’t want to do, including sexually?

How we can help

If you are being abused, help is available for you. You can speak to your health visitor or school nurse who can provide you with details of local support services.

This may include support to leave the relationship, as well as helping you with some coping strategies around living in an abusive relationship if you are not ready to leave.

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

If you’re considering leaving your partner or the abusive environment, be careful who you tell (including online/on social media). It’s important that your partner doesn’t know where you’re going. Planning is very important. If you decide to leave, it will help to take:

  • Your documents, including birth certificates for your children, passports, any medical records, benefits books, and mortgage or rent details
  • Your address book
  • Your house keys
  • If you have young children, take baby items, some clothes and a special toy for each child

Child sexual exploitation is another type of abusive relationship. To find out more visit the NSPCC website.

If you or your child are in immediate danger, ring 999.