Many people who’ve experienced domestic abuse say they didn’t recognise they were in an abusive relationship until they were out of it. This is often because the abuse may start with controlling behaviour such as frequently checking where you are or psychological abuse, saying or doing things that make you less confident. This can get worse over time and may become physical.

Realising you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it.

Signs that you are in an abusive relationship

  • Your partner is violent or threatening towards you
  • Your partner criticises you and puts you down
  • Your partner is controlling about what you do, where you go, who you see or what you spend
  • You feel afraid of your partner
  • You think you are to blame for the way your partner treats you
  • You feel embarrassed when your friends and family see how your partner treats you
  • Remember, it’s never your fault. You are not alone and support and help are available.

Signs that someone you care about may be in an abusive relationship

  • Withdrawing from their circle of friends and doing less with other people
  • Lots of phone calls or texts from their partner when with friends
  • Anxiety when they might be home late or plans change
  • Unexplained bruises or physical injuries

How to offer support

If you know or suspect that someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse

  • Try to get them to open up to you about it, remembering it may take several attempts
  • Listen to and believe what they tell you
  • Be supportive and recognise that their self-confidence and self-esteem may be very low and that even talking to you about it requires an enormous amount of strength and courage
  • Be patient and don’t judge them, don’t tell them to leave or criticise them for staying – everyone has to make the decision in their own time
  • Visit our advice pages here. For detailed advice, download a help guide
  • Encourage them to seek specialist help and support and also offer help with any practical arrangements.