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Abusing, controlling or coercing a partner or family member is against the law

IntroductionProviding supportTalk to us


Domestic abuse does not happen only amongst those who are current or separated partners. Domestic abuse can also take place towards siblings, parents, children, grandchildren and extended families including in-laws.

People experiencing familial violence are likely to minimise their safety concerns and think it’s normal to have tensions and so may not describe their experiences as ‘abuse’, whereas it actually is.


If you are concerned about domestic abuse affecting anyone, please seek advice from the Somerset Domestic Abuse Service

Living free from violence and abuse is a basic human right. But people sometimes need support to help them realise that the way they are being treated is not okay and that it is their right to live without being scared or intimidated and without having their freedom limited by a partner or family member.

In the past, domestic abuse was seen as a private matter between two people, with other people close to the situation often ignoring what was happening or excusing the abuse.  However, abusing, controlling or coercing a partner or family member is against the law. There is never any excuse for domestic abuse. You may not know the full extent of what is happening, but you either know or suspect something is not right in your relative’s relationship.

Remember too that domestic abuse can continue even after people have separated or are estranged in some way. With your help, the person may be able to keep themselves safer, think about ending the relationship and recover from the impacts of the abuse they have experienced.

If you have a family member who you think may be in a relationship with a partner or an adult family member who has been abusive towards them, then this advice page will help you know what to do.

Please be encouraged that you are not alone in your experiences, that there are things you can do to support the person you know and yourself, and that there are organisations that can offer assistance.

Providing support

Firstly, don’t try to ‘rescue’ the person, challenge the abuser or attempt to bring about the end of the relationship. Although you care for your friend or relative, any action has to be their decision, not yours. They may not even see their relationship as being domestic abuse even though you can.

If you want to ask them about your concerns, approach your friend or relative in a sensitive way, letting them know your concerns. Tell them you’re worried, then explain why.

For example:

I’m worried about you because I have noticed you seem stressed or not yourself lately.

Your relative may not want to say anything. This is because they may be scared of admitting there’s a problem. Or even ashamed and embarrassed. Even though you are trying to help, it is not easy to admit to people who you love and care for. Also, if your relative is a man, he may feel particularly embarrassed about speaking about the abuse as he may be seen as ‘weak’ or ‘unmanly’.

Don’t push the person into talking if they are uncomfortable, but let them know that you are there if they need to talk. Be patient, and keep an ear out for anything that indicates they are ready to talk about the abuse.

You do not need to have all the answers, by listening you will be helping the person to admit what is happening, and this will break the silence around the situation. If your friend or relative admits of difficulties, then ask how it is making them feel, that it does not seem right, what can you do to help? Be sympathetic, but don’t say what you would do – every situation and person is different. Remember too that even though the abuse may be very severe, your friend or relative may feel loyalty and even love for the person causing harm. It can take time for them to realise they can live a different life and get help to support them in making the change.

Talk to us

If you are concerned for yourself or someone else, our local, confidential helpline will advise anyone seeking help with domestic abuse. This includes relatives, friends and work colleagues as well as those who are causing harm.

Speak to us on 0800 69 49 999. Our phone line is available 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.


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 You will then be able to send a text to 999 if you require help in an emergency.

Last reviewed: September 14, 2023 by Sophie

Next review due: March 14, 2024

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