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What is Domestic Abuse?



“I went out for the first time in 18 years.”

What is Domestic Abuse?

Is this happening to me?

Domestic abuse has many sides to it. It can be physical, mental or sexual abuse. Domestic abuse happens because an abuser wants to gain power and control over a partner or ex-partner. It is persistent and controlling behaviour. It is very common. It can happen even if you don’t live with them. It gets worse over time.

It can happen whether you have children or not. It happens to women from all walks of life.

It isn’t a fight or an argument. If you are forced to alter or change your behaviour because you are frightened of your partner’s reactions or behaviour, you are being abused.

It is not caused by poverty, mental health, stress, or alcohol or substance misuse. It is not because a person grew up with abuse. It is a pattern of abusive behaviour. Abusing someone is a choice an abuser makes.

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Info graphic - The dominatorInfo graphic - Mr RIght

Physical abuse

This can range from being spat on, a slap or a punch to being thrown outside, run over, burnt, choked, tied up, dragged by your hair or bones broken. The range of violence is endless. At its most extreme it can result in death.

Emotional abuse

Many women are never physically hurt. It is just as harmful as physical abuse. Many women are not sure if what is happening to them is domestic abuse. They worry no-one will take them seriously if they talk about it. Emotional abuse is an attack on your personality and character. (See below).

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse or rape can happen to anyone. It can be a stranger, friend, family member, a date or within an intimate relationship. It can even continue when the relationship is over. Many people living with domestic abuse are sexually abused. It can be hard to acknowledge or admit to yourself that your partner is raping or sexually abusing you.

You should not be forced to have sex or to perform acts you do not want to do. He may rape you, force you to have sex with other people, make you dress in a certain way, criticise your body or performance. The range of sexual abuse is extensive.

Financial abuse

Another way an abusers can control his partner is by financial abuse. It could be taking your money, stopping you from working, borrowing money in your name or not pay any bills.

This may help you identify whether you are experiencing abuse:

Your feelings and actions:

  • Are you afraid of your partner
  • Are you frightened to voice your opinion or view
  • Do you feel isolated and cut off from friends and family
  • Do you check out his mood before you say or do anything
  • Do you think he just has an anger problem
  • Feel you are answerable all the time
  • Do you feel your life is being controlled
  • Nothing you do or say is good enough
  • Feel if you tried harder he wouldn’t be abusive
  • Feel you have limited choices
  • Feel you are walking on egg shells
  • Feel you have lost who you are
  • Can’t make decisions or trust your decisions
  • Feel like you’re going mad but don’t know why
  • Do you have to keep the children quiet
  • Feel ill a lot the time
  • Afraid to go out
  • Frightened to say no to sex or other sexual activities
  • Feel anxious or stressed most of the time
  • Do you feel emotionally detached
  • Do you use unhealthy coping strategies such as drink, drugs or other medication
  • Given up working/socialising as it just too hard to get out the door
  • Has your personality changed
  • Feel you have to rush home/always answer his texts or calls
Their behaviour (whether living with them or not). Does he:
  • Threaten you with disclosing your secrets or being outed before you are ready
  • Force you to have sex or perform sexual act you don’t want to do
  • Threaten to take the children from you or report you to authorities
  • Threaten to kill himself if you leave
  • Hide things from you
  • Physically hurt you
  • Constantly criticize you
  • Tell you are stupid or useless or no-one else would ever want you
  • Control all the money
  • Damage your or the children’s possessions
  • Hide equipment you need to get around
  • Drive to fast to frighten you
  • Humiliate you or insult you
  • Is he jealous and possessive
  • Control your medication or give you drink or drugs
  • Threatened to harm your children or other family members
  • Threaten to or does hurt pets
  • Monitor all your movements, who you see or what you say
  • Tell what you wear or how to do your hair
  • Threaten you with posting intimate images of you online
  • Not take no for an answer for sex
  • Ignore you or give you the silent treatment
  • Blame you for his abuse and violence
  • Stalk and harass you
  • Are you being forced to marry him
  • Make a point of staying in your life
Who does domestic abuse happen to?

Anyone can be abused. It happens regardless of the backgrounds – sexuality, religion, age, culture or gender. It happens irrespective or the type of job you have or where you live or your education. It happens in straight or gay relationships.

It doesn’t have to be a long term relationship. Abuse can start early on or at any stage of the relationship. It is rarely a one off and generally it will get more frequent and sever. It is always difficult to get away from.


The effects of domestic abuse

The effects are wide-ranging; much more than the stereotypical image of the bruised woman.

Domestic abuse impacts on health, safety, prevents women and children being able to stay in their own home, limits their education and work opportunities – in short, there is no area of life into which domestic abuse doesn’t intrude.


In an emergency, always call the police on 999.

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