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Domestic abuse in a relationship: recognise it

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.

There are different kinds of abuse that can happen in different  contexts. The most prevalent type of domestic abuse occurs in  relationships. But the definition of domestic abuse also covers abuse  between family members, such as adolescent to parent violence and abuse. 

For anyone who feels they are at risk of abuse, it is important to  remember that there is help and support available to you, including  police response, online support, helplines, refuges and other services.

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

Emotional abuse:

Does your partner, or former partner, ever:

  • belittle you, or put you down?
  • blame you for the abuse or arguments?
  • deny that abuse is happening, or play it down?
  • 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?

Threats and intimidation:

Does your partner, or former 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, or former 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, whether they’re male or female.

Does your partner, or former partner, ever:

  • touch you in a way you don’t 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, or former partner, has sex with you when you don’t want to, this is rape.

Have you ever felt afraid of your partner or former partner?

Have you ever changed your behaviour because you’re afraid of what your partner, or former partner, might do?

If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, there is help available.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and  listen to the questions from the operator and if possible, respond by  coughing or tapping the head set.

Call 999 from a mobile

If prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard and this will transfer your call to the police.

Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow police to track your location.

Call 999 from a landline

If only background noise can be heard and operators cannot decide  whether an emergency service is needed, then you will be connected to a  police call handler.

If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick up again.

When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about your  location should be automatically available to the call handlers to help  provide a response.

If you are deaf or can’t verbally communicate

You can register with the emergencySMS service.  Text REGISTER to 999.  You will get a text which tells you what to do  next. Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger.

Get help if you, or someone you know, is a victim

National Domestic Abuse Helpline

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run by Refuge and offers free, confidential support 24 hours a day  to victims and those who are worried about friends and loved ones.

Telephone and TypeTalk: 0808 2000 247

Wales Live Fear Free Helpline

The Wales Live Fear Free Helpline offers help and advice about violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Telephone: 0808 8010 800

TypeTalk: 18001 080 8801

Text: 078600 77 333

The Men’s Advice Line

The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them.

Telephone: 0808 801 0327


Galop - for members of the LGBT+ community

Galop runs the National LGBT+ domestic abuse helpline.

Telephone: 0800 999 5428

TypeTalk: 18001 020 7704 2040


Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid has a live chat service available Mondays to Fridays between 10am and 12pm as well as an online  survivor’s forum. You can also find your local domestic abuse service  on their website.

The Survivor’s Handbook, created by Women’s Aid, provides information on housing, money, helping your children and your legal rights.

Karma Nirvana

Karma Nirvana runs a national honour-based abuse and forced marriage helpline. If you are unable to call or email, you can send a message securely on the website.

Telephone: 0800 5999 247



Hestia provides a free mobile app, Bright Sky, which provides support and  information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those  concerned about someone they know.


Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages about  identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those  being abused.


Imkaan are a women’s organisation addressing violence against black and minority women and girls.

Southall Black Sisters

Southall Black Sisters offer advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse.

Stay Safe East

Stay Safe East provides advocacy and support services to disabled victims and survivors of abuse.

Telephone: 020 8519 7241

Text: 07587 134 122



SignHealth provides domestic abuse service support for deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL).

Telephone: 020 3947 2601

Text/WhatsApp/Facetime: 07970 350366



Shelter provide free confidential information, support and legal advice on all housing and homelessness issues including a webchat service.

Sexual Assault Referral Centres

Sexual Assault Referral Centres provide advice and support services to victims and survivors of sexual assault or abuse.

Get help if you think you may be an abuser

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be an abuser, there is support available.

Respect is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women who are  harming their partners and families. The helpline also takes calls from  partners or ex-partners, friends and relatives who are concerned about  perpetrators. A webchat service is available Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 11am and from 3pm to 4pm.

Telephone: 0808 802 4040

Get help for children and young people


The NSPCC helpline is available for advice and support for anyone with concerns about a child.

The NSPCC has issued guidance for spotting and reporting the signs of abuse.

Telephone: 0808 800 5000


If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can contact the NSPCC via SignVideo using your webcam. SignVideo, using British Sign Language, is available  on PC, Mac, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android smartphones (4.2 or above).  This service is available Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and Saturdays  from 8am to 1pm.


Childline provides help and support to children and young people.

Telephone: 0800 1111


Barnardo’s provide support to families affected by domestic abuse.

Family Lives

Family Lives provide support through online forums.

Support 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.

Neighbours and community members can be a life-line for those living  with domestic abuse. Look out for your neighbours, if someone reaches  out to you there is advice on this page about how to respond. 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 don’t push them to talk if they don’t 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
  • don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they’re not ready – that’s their decision
  • ask if they have suffered physical harm – if so, 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 on organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse

If you are worried that a friend, neighbour or loved one is a victim  of domestic abuse then you can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline  for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, you should always call 999.

Women’s Aid has a list of useful links for websites and organisations providing relevant information and support.

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’)

Under this scheme you can ask the police to check whether a new,  former or existing partner has a violent past. This is called ‘right to  ask’. If records show that you may be at risk of domestic abuse from a  partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A  disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do  so.

The ‘right to ask’ also enables a third party, such as a friend or  family member, to apply for a disclosure on behalf of someone they know.  Again, the police can release information if it is lawful, necessary  and proportionate to do so.

In order to make an application under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme please contact the police. You can do this by:

  • visiting a police station (the household isolation instruction as a  result of coronavirus does not apply if you need to leave your home to  escape domestic abuse)
  • phoning 101
  • speaking to a member of the police on the street

If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, you should always call 999.

Read more information in the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme guidance.

If you don’t have settled status in the UK

Apply for settlement in your own right

If your relationship with a British citizen or someone settled in the  UK has broken down because of domestic abuse you may be able to apply  for settlement as a victim of domestic violence.

In light of this, the government offers the Destitute Domestic  Violence concession, which provides help to victims of domestic abuse  who are in a relationship in which they are financially dependent on an  abusive partner, who have been admitted to the UK with leave as spouses,  unmarried partners, same-sex partners or civil partners of a British  citizen or a person settled in the UK.

Apply for access to benefits

The Destitution Domestic Violence concession offers domestic abuse victims 3 months’ leave outside the immigration  rules with the ability to apply for access to public funds. This  provides the opportunity to gain a temporary immigration status  independent of the abuser and to fund safe accommodation, where victims  of domestic abuse may consider applying for indefinite leave to remain  or deciding to return to their country of origin.

More support materials

Help is available for those experiencing domestic abuse from the Department of Work and Pensions. This includes housing benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, a break from job seeking and Universal Credit adjustments.

Read information and practice guidelines for professionals protecting, advising and supporting victims of forced marriage.

Read the leaflet the Home Office developed with Southall Black Sisters aimed at women in black and minority ethnic communities: Three steps to escaping domestic violence. (