Women and domestic abuse

Recognise the signs of an unhealthy relationship and what you can do to get help

Women are more likely than men to experience domestic abuse and in particular sexual violence. Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability.


Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence. In most cases domestic abuse is from a partner or ex-partner, but can also be by a family member or carer. It is very common and in most cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Find out how we can help you and how you can get in touch.

The Woman’s Aid Survivor’s Handbook also provides practical support and information for women experiencing domestic abuse, with simple guidance on seeking support.

Myths and misconceptions about domestic abuse

He does not hit me so it is not abuse

Reality: Abuse does not always take the form of violence. It can be controlling, coercive, threatening or degrading behaviour.

Find out more about the different types of abuse.

Alcohol and drugs make men more violent

Reality: Alcohol and drugs do not cause domestic abuse, but can make existing abuse worse. Many people use alcohol or drugs and do not abuse their partner, so it should never be used to excuse violent or controlling behaviour. The perpetrator alone is responsible for his actions.

Domestic abuse always involves physical or sexual violence

Reality: Domestic abuse is often thought of as the beating up of a partner or sexual assault but sometimes there is no physical assault.

Other abusive behaviours include:

  • Coercive control
  • Psychological abuse
  • Financial or economic control
  • Emotional abuse
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Short free online awareness courses are available to help you understand more about domestic abuse.

He can be a good father even if he abuses me, it does not have to affect our children

Reality: Children witness abuse more often than parents realise, and the effects can be traumatic and long-lasting.

An estimated 90% of children whose parents are in an abusive relationship witness the abuse. When a child witnesses domestic abuse it is child abuse.

Find out more about children and domestic abuse.

All couples argue – it’s not domestic abuse, it is just a normal relationship

Reality: While disagreeing sometimes is part of a health relationship, when abuse is involved, there is no discussion between equals. There is fear of saying or doing the ‘wrong’ thing, and control over the other person’s thinking, emotions and behaviour.

Find out more about Recognising unhealthy relationships.

Domestic abuse only occurs in impoverished, inner-city areas

Reality: From an urban or rural area, rich or poor, anyone can experience domestic abuse, it does not matter where you live or how much income you have. It happens in all types of relationships, regardless of employment status and what type of house you live in.

Domestic abuse is a rare occurrence

Reality: Often domestic abuse goes on behind closed doors and is underreported, however it is not an uncommon occurrence. One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Domestic abuse is often a one-off incident

Reality: An abusive relationship has an ongoing cycle of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members. It will often get worse over time.

People experiencing abuse often provoke assaults and therefore “ask for it”

Reality: Domestic abuse cannot be justified in any way. Nobody is responsible for making someone abusive towards them. Abuse that has been going on in a relationship for a long time, sometimes decades, often becomes normalised, even to the point of believing they deserve to be hurt. This can lead to someone rationalising and defending their abuser’s behaviour.

Domestic abuse is a private matter that others should not get involved in

Reality: Domestic abuse is a crime and should not be ignored. Trying to tackle the situation on your own may be dangerous.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse phone 0800 69 49 999.

In an emergency you should always dial 999, if you are unable to speak because you are worried you will be overheard you can press 55 and the operator will know that you need assistance.

Directory of additional support services

Somerset Domestic Abuse Service is Somerset’s main specialist service which provides support to men, women and children who are affected by domestic abuse.

Find other local and national services that can provide you with extra support

Find a service

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0800 69 49 999


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call the Police