What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour on the part of the abuser designed to control their partner. It can happen at any point in a relationship, including after you have split up.

Anyone forced to change their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner or ex-partner’s reaction is experiencing abuse.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.

It also includes issues of concern to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities such as so-called 'honour based violence', female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Domestic abuse is never the fault of the person who is experiencing it and it does not mean they are weak at all.

Spotting the signs of domestic abuse

There are many signs to look out for if you believe you are being abused by your partner. Some signs may be more obvious than others.

You should ask yourself the following questions to help you discern whether you are being abused by your partner:


Forms of domestic abuse


Will they change?

It is natural to hope that your partner will change, or that the abuse will stop. Often, an abusive partner will be very sorry after an incident of abuse. They may beg for forgiveness. If you have left them, they may become very charming and convince you to return. They may be on their best behaviour for weeks, or even months, before they become abusive again.

The unfortunate truth is that domestic abuse usually gets worse over time. There are perpetrator programmes for abusers who want to take responsibility for their abuse and change their behaviour for good. However, it is important that you prioritise your safety and wellbeing, and that of your children.

Myths and excuses

Alcohol, drugs and stress make them violent

Abusers are also violent when sober. Many people who drink never use violence. These are all excuses.

The victim would leave if it was really bad

There are many overlapping reasons why victims may stay. Leaving is difficult and takes time. It is a process.

Abusers grow up in violent homes so they are not to blame

Violence is a choice an abuser makes; they alone are responsible. It is unrelated to childhood.

Domestic abuse only happens to women

Men can be victims of domestic violence - gender does not determine whether you can be a victim or not. It can happen to anyone regardless of where they live, their profession, or social background.
However, women are more likely to be victims, based on data from the Office for National Statistics .

Some people deserve it

Abusers often claim their partner ‘makes them do it’. This is victim-blaming. The abuser alone is responsible.

They just lose their temper sometimes

Abusers say they ‘see red’ sometimes – but they are very much in control, using multiple methods to abuse.

Some victims like violence

Victims do not like violence. Most live in fear and terror. This is victim-blaming.

You're lucky to have them

Whether your abuser is also your caregiver, or presents themself as the perfect breadwinner, victims often hear they are lucky to have someone 'looking after them'. But you deserve to make choices about your own life.

Domestic abuse is a private matter

Domestic abuse is a crime. It is not an individual but a social problem. We all need to speak out against it.


Did you know?

There are ways of getting immediate help and support if you are a victim of domestic abuse.

Women can call Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or start an online live chat.

Men can call the Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or email info@mensadviceline.org.uk.