Am I experiencing abuse?

Find out more about the signs of domestic abuse. All relationships have their ups and downs, but a healthy one shouldn’t leave you feeling belittled, scared and lonely.

What is domestic abuse?

When people hear “domestic abuse”, a woman covered in bruises usually comes to mind, but abuse isn’t always physical and not all bruises are visible.

It’s a pattern of power and control and it can happen to all women, no matter what age, race, religion, income, background or sexuality.

Many victims and survivors are isolated, silenced and shamed by the stigma that the abuse they’re subjected to isn’t real because outsiders can’t ‘see’ it.

But 1 in 4 women in the UK experience coercive control, economic abuse, digital abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, threats, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.

Tragically, domestic abuse is the most common form of violence women experience – at the hands of the person they’re meant to feel safest with.

woman with chin in hand outside

Recognise the signs of domestic abuse

They’re not always physical

If something doesn’t feel right in your relationship, it probably isn’t. Your gut is trying to warn you, and we encourage you to trust it, and to seek help when you’re ready. We hope the following statements help you identify what that ‘something’ is.

It’s important to note that amidst the following signs of domestic abuse, your partner can and probably does also intermittently display remorseful and loving behaviour, which makes it all the more confusing.

Please note we’ve gendered the descriptions below because intimate partner violence is predominantly male to female. But of course it also happens in queer relationships and we are here for you too.

My partner’s behaviour

  • He gets jealous and possessive
  • He isolates me from supportive family or friends
  • He unfairly accuses me of cheating or flirting with others
  • He keeps track of my movements
  • He controls what I wear, who I see, where I go or what I think
  • He criticises, insults and accuses me
  • He threatens my pets or the people I care about
  • He forces or nags me to have sex or perform sex acts I don’t feel comfortable doing
  • He checks my phone, my social media and my web history
  • He controls my money and keeps track of what I spend
  • He damages my things deliberately
  • He guilt-trips me and gives me the silent treatment
  • He humiliates or shames me in front of others, sometimes through the disguise of banter
  • He doesn’t let me spend time alone
  • He lies to me and makes excuses
  • He stops me from or limits my working
  • He changes his mood from one moment to the next
  • He convinces me to commit benefit fraud or illegal acts

The impact my partner’s behaviour has on me

  • I question my self-worth, achievements or professional competence
  • I feel confused and drained
  • I deprioritise myself and my important needs
  • I blame myself for the way he treats me
  • I struggle to have and trust my own opinions
  • I go against my boundaries, values and non-negotiables
  • I feel like I’m not good enough or attractive enough, no matter what I do
  • I feel intimidated, anxious and unsafe because I can’t predict his behaviour
  • I avoid saying things in case he gets angry, to not “ruin” things
  • I keep focusing on potential, hoping things will change, over and over
  • I hide things from my loved ones and don’t see them like I used to which makes me feel lonely and lost
  • I’ve lost my appetite and I have trouble sleeping
  • I’m scared of what will happen if I leave him
  • I use unhealthy coping mechanisms to escape and numb the pain
  • I have panic or anxiety attacks
  • I feel like I’m losing the will the live

We’re here for you

If you thought ‘yes’ to any of these statements as you read them, you may be experiencing domestic abuse.

Give us a call or come and talk to us at a drop in for some information and no strings attached advice in a non-judgemental environment.

We know it can be overwhelming to come to terms with your partner’s violence and the impact it has on you, but we’re here for you as you navigate your next steps.

It’s important to remember that all your reactions and behaviours are normal and abuse is never, ever your fault – no matter what he says.

Help us display this poster locally

Please download our Warning Signs poster to put in the women’s toilets at your place of work, in cafes, bars, pubs and community centres. It will help women experiencing abuse recognise the signs if they haven’t yet identified them. It will also help them know they’re not alone and support is available for them.

“I used to look at those posters on my breaks at work and think, ‘this is me’” — SATEDA client

Warning Signs Adult Poster

The cycle of abuse helps illustrate common patterns of abusive behaviour in relationships.

It also helps us understand why it can be difficult for a women experiencing abuse to break free.

2023 The cycle of abuse 2

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, our support is completely confidential.

Yes, domestic abuse doesn’t have an age limit, but it is often associated with older couples. It might help you to relabel it as a ‘toxic’, ‘abusive’ or ‘unhealthy’ relationship. You can find more information about red flags and advice for under 18s here.

It’s really tough watching someone you care about being mistreated by their partner. As someone witnessing the relationship from the outside, you’re probably seeing things which are too difficult for her to realise whilst she’s in it.

If your friend is in an abusive relationship, be there for her and check in as regularly, sensitively and tactfully as you can.

Her partner will probably be trying to isolate her from others so it’s really important to maintain a link with her for her safety.

Whilst you can’t make her do anything — that’s her decision and on average it takes 9 attempts for a woman to leave her abusive partner — there are ways you can help. You can find more advice on supporting a loved one here.

We often hear people asking ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ when talking about the impact and severity of domestic abuse. It’s a question which leaves women feeling judged, alienated, misunderstood and ashamed. It’s also a question which isn’t easy to answer, with a wide range of reasons, so we’ve listed a few:

  • Danger of increased risk of violence trying to leave the relationship
  • Confused by your partner’s manipulation which creates a blurred perception of reality
  • Love and empathy for your partner’s story, experiences and hardships
  • Hope that your love and sacrifices can heal your partner
  • Lack of financial resources to leave if you’re dependent on your partner
  • Isolation and lack of community to support you if you leave your partner
  • Fear you’ll be deported if you leave your partner and are on a spousal visa
  • Fear that you’ll be made to report your partner and he will be deported if he is on a visa or has leave to remain immigration status
  • Fear and shame of disrespecting your family, religion or culture
  • Fear that your children will be taken away or suffer from the separation
  • Fear of leaving pets behind
  • Denial of your partner’s violence and its impact on you and your children
  • Feeling worthless without your partner because of what he’s said to belittle your self-esteem and emotionally abuse you
  • Longing and having hope that your partner will change to the person you temporarily experience during the ‘honeymoon’ phase of the abusive cycle
  • Trauma bonding
trauma bond oml

In the words of survivor and SATEDA volunteer Mary, “It’s not just one connection that has the power to draw you back to the abuser. It’s hundreds if not thousands of individual strands, each one a shared moment, experience or promise.”

One of the most powerful sessions of our ‘Own My Life’ programme explores trauma bonds using Mary’s analogy. When you place yourself in the middle of the web, you see more vividly what we mean when we say ‘trapped’. You feel less inclined to question ‘why didn’t she just leave?’

Because he chooses to be, and his decision to control and abuse you in this way while managing to control his behaviour towards everyone else, might stem from:

  • His dysfunctional family background and unresolved traumas growing up
  • His belief that because he has experienced pain, you should too
  • Patriarchy, sexist culture and gender norms which lead him to believe he’s entitled to control you, hurt you and that you belong to him
  • Pornified popular culture shaping his dehumanising views of women, in the music he listens to, the films he watches and the misogynist role models he admires privately and publicly

We’re here for you

If the warning signs of domestic abuse have left you questioning your relationship, our lovely support workers are here to talk through your situation and find solutions with you, so you feel as safe and comfortable as possible. You deserve healthy love.