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Signs of abuse

Domestic abuse isn’t always easy to recognise and is not always obvious. It often develops gradually over time and can even start to feel normal for those experiencing it.

It’s important to be aware of the signs of abuse and to remember that it is never acceptable and those experiencing it are not to blame.

Domestic abuse can be experienced or perpetrated by anyone aged 16 or over.

It can occur between family members or those who have been intimate partners.

Some examples of domestic abuse


This could involve insults, criticism and put-downs of appearance, intelligence, identity or parenting abilities, threats to disclose substance misuse or mental health issues to social services among others. It could be humiliation at home or in public, including undermining comments or behaviour. It might involve being shouted at and made to feel fearful or worthless.


This can include preventing someone from getting or keeping a job, taking their money away, building up debts in their name, or withholding income.


This could include, for example: hitting, punching, shoving, kicking, strangling, slapping, hair pulling, throwing objects, scratching, cutting, choking, smothering, neglect (such as denial of food, shelter, medication or sanitation) or deliberately putting someone in danger of harm. It may not always leave physical marks.


This might include threats and intimidation, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family, friends or pets, or threatening to reveal private information without their consent.

It could be controlling behaviour, using manipulation or coercion, such as telling someone what to do or wear. It could involve following them or monitoring their texts, emails, calls, post or internet use. It may involve controlling who the victim can see or communicate with, or isolating them from others.

Victims might be made to feel like they are to blame for arguments or problems, or for the behaviour of the perpetrator. They might be made to feel like they are making things up or mentally ill through deliberate deception or manipulation (sometimes known as gaslighting).


This can involve forcing the victim to have sex or perform sexual acts (which could include taking photos or films, and could also take place online) when they don’t want to. It may involve threats, intimidation, coercive behaviour or physical force, although it is still sexual abuse without using these if it is non-consensual.

Domestic abuse can also include harassment, stalking, female genital mutilation,
forced marriage and 'honour-based' abuse.

Stopping domestic abuse

The list above is not exhaustive. Domestic abuse can take many forms and its consequences can be severe. It can lead to anxiety, depression and other mental and physical health issues. It can affect people’s confidence and can lead to substance abuse and other unsafe practices. It can also affect those witnessing abuse, including children. It can have an impact on their health, education and life chances. Domestic abuse is often cyclical with victims and perpetrators coming from homes where it was present.

If you think you might be experiencing domestic abuse, or you might know someone who is, or are concerned about your own behaviour, help is available.

Talk to someone you trust, or use the Useful contacts page, to get help and support.

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