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Domestic violence and abuse - Healthy body

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

If you're worried someone might see you have visited this page, the Women's Aid website tells you how to cover your tracks online.

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.

Getting help and support for domestic violence

You do not have to wait for an emergency situation to find help. If domestic abuse is happening to you, it's important to tell someone and remember you're not alone.

Extra support during coronavirus

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

Many pharmacies have safe spaces where you can get information about support and make calls.

Find pharmacies offering safe spaces on the UK Says No More website

Other ways to get support:

You can also email for support. It is important that you specify when and if it is safe to respond and to which email address:

The Survivor's Handbook from the charity Women's Aid is free and provides information for women on a wide range of issues, such as housing, money, helping your children, and your legal rights.

If you are worried that you are abusive, you can contact the free Respect helpline on 0808 802 4040.

Signs of domestic violence and abuse

There are different kinds of abuse, but it's always about having power and control over you.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you might be in an abusive relationship.

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 do not 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 ever 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.

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're 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 organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse

Video: domestic violence

In this video, 2 women describe their experiences of domestic abuse.

Media last reviewed: 1 June 2020
Media review due: 1 June 2023

Sexual assault

Anyone who has been sexually assaulted can get confidential help, treatment and support at a sexual assault referral centre.

Read more about getting help after rape and sexual assault.

Find your nearest sexual assault referral centre

Page last reviewed: 30 December 2019
Next review due: 30 December 2022