Anyone can experience abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality, or background. It is not always immediately apparent that someone may be abusive towards you, this can develop over time.

Although every situation is different, there are usually common factors that would indicate domestic abuse. There are healthy and unhealthy behaviours in most relationships. However, if you feel unsafe you should seek advice and support.

The following information can help you to recognise if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in a relationship. Always remember that it is not your fault.

Recognising domestic abuse in a relationship

If you are afraid of a relative or your partner, that is not right. You might be worried to say what you think and feel you have to avoid certain subjects to avoid tension, hostility or actual violence. It maybe that you can’t see friends, family or work colleagues and cannot take part in different hobbies.

You may feel that you cannot make a decision (no matter if large or small) without getting your partner or relatives permission, as they will make negative and unsupportive comments to you or people you care about.

You may also notice that either children or animals are threatened or harmed, and used as a means to control you.

Money maybe a worry and you may not be allowed to spend what you want when you want.

No matter the reason, fear has no place in a healthy relationship.

Does your partner, ex-partner, or someone you live with:

  • cut you off from family and friends and intentionally isolate you?
  • is often jealous when you spend time with others and possessive of you?
  • insult you, put you down or make unkind comments about you, or do not listen to you or consider your opinions and feelings?
  • bully, threaten, control you or make you feel frightened?
  • take control of your finances?
  • prevent you from doing things you want and going to places such as school or work?
  • make you do things that you do not want to do?
  • monitor or limit your use of your phone or other technology?
  • are they aggressive, or harm you in any way?
  • threatening you or your friends, family or pets?

Domestic abuse is not always physical violence, it can also include:

  • coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
  • economic or financial abuse
  • online or technical abuse
  • threats and intimidation
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse

Read more about the different types of abuse.

Signs to look out for

If you believe that you are a victim of domestic abuse, there are signs that you can look out for including:

  • being withdrawn, or isolated from your family and friends
  • having bruises, burns or bite marks on you
  • feel anxious or shameful of the relationship
  • not being allowed to leave your house, or stopped from going to college or work
  • having your internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading your texts, emails or letters
  • being repeatedly belittled, put down, told you are worthless or damaging your reputation
  • being pressured into sex or sexual contact
  • being told that abuse is your fault, or that you are overreacting
  • accusing you of flirting or cheating and attempting to control the things you do and who you spend time with
  • when a person feels the need to be in constant contact with you

If something does not feel right in your relationship, it probably isn’t. We can help you understand this better and support you with the next steps.

You are not alone.

Get in touch

If you are worried that your relationship is showing unhealthy signs, and you may be experiencing domestic abuse, or you are worried about someone you know, or are concerned about the impact of your behaviour towards others, then help is available. Contact us online or phone us 0800 69 49 999.


In an emergency, you should always dial 999. If you are worried that an abuser may overhear your call you can remain silent, tap the phone and dial 55 when prompted by the operator who will send help.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can register with emergencySMS.net. You will then be able to send a text to 999 if you require help in an emergency.

Last reviewed: October 5, 2023 by Jennifer

Next review due: April 5, 2024

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