• Hannah

spotting signs of abuse in a partner.

An estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse over a year from March 2019. This included 1.6 million women and 757,000 men. With the coronavirus pandemic confining many relationships, the demand for domestic abuse victim support increased with a 65% increase in calls logged by helplines between April and June 2020.

upset woman with her head in her hands / fully grown

An abusive relationship can take many forms: physically, psychologically, emotionally, threateningly, financially, sexually and more. However, the initial identifiable signs in an abusive partner can apply to most forms. We’ve collated a list of common signs that your partner is displaying, or may eventually display, signs of abuse.

controlling behaviour.

Your partner may assume a position of control in the relationship, which isn’t necessarily bad. However, when control becomes a power over you, your ability to do anything for yourself is undermined. It may be a sign your partner’s control could increase to prevent you from normality.

downgrading and belittling.

Your partner seeks to reduce the importance of your actions, no matter how important they are to you. This can include dismissing your achievements, saying things to downplay what you’ve done or subtle criticisms that diminish your self-esteem. They may also convey that you and your achievements will never be as good as them, continuing this role of power and control.

preventing socialisation.

Your partner may try and stop you from seeing friends and family or ensure that they are with you when you do. They may just limit you to seeing certain people in your social circle or everyone. Either way, there is a boundary crossed that prevents you from living your day-to-day life. This prevention may also include knowing where you are at all times, regardless of who you are seeing.

woman sat in a chair looking upset / fully grown

lack of respect for boundaries.

This sign is more difficult to detect as it usually occurs over time, sometimes considered the “slow erosion of the self”. Infringing on your boundaries may be hidden under the guise of compromise. Make sure you reflect and assess how many compromises you make compared to them; if the balance is unfair, consider whether these compromises are penetrating your established boundaries.

picking fights and arguments.

You and your partner have consistent, menial arguments that stem from little cause. They are usually started by your partner, but you are always wrong or gaslit to believe so.

you feel nervous around them.

Your partner should be seen as someone you are comfortable with, not afraid or nervous of.

If you’re worried your partner is displaying signs of abuse, reach out to friends and family if possible to talk about your concerns and next steps. Several resources can offer advice and provide a route to leaving your partner safely also. You can also make a request to the police for information on a person’s previous violent offending either in person at a police station, by telephone, email or online. This is known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme or Clare’s Law and is your ‘right to ask’.

Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline (England)

0808 2000 247

Online chat: https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/Chat-to-us-online

Webform: https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/Contact-us

Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline (Northern Ireland)

0808 802 1414

Online chat: https://dsahelpline.org/


Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (Scotland)

0800 027 1234

Online chat: https://sdafmh.org.uk/


Live Fear Free (Wales)

0808 80 10 800

Online chat: https://gov.wales/live-fear-free/contact-live-fear-free

Text: https://gov.wales/live-fear-free/about-live-fear-free-text-service


Men’s Advice Line

0808 801 0327


Bright Sky App

Free mobile app and website for anyone experiencing domestic abuse or worried about another.

Victim Support

Services for victims and survivors of any abuse or crime, regardless of the time frame and whether it was reported to the police.

08 08 16 89 111

Online chat: https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-and-support/get-help/support-near-you/live-chat/

Free resource: https://www.mysupportspace.org.uk/

ANI Codeword

If you need immediate help, ask for “ANI” (Action Needed Immediately) at a pharmacy. They will provide you with a private space, phone and support from the police or domestic abuse support services.

Safe Spaces

These are available in Boots, Morrisons, Superdrug and Well pharmacies, TSB banks and independent pharmacies in the UK. Inside you will be able to access specialist domestic abuse support information.

Find your nearest Safe Space: https://uksaysnomore.org/safespaces/

If you think you may be an abuser, there is support available to you. The Respect Phoneline is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women.

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