Abusive Relationships

What to do if you are in an abusive relationship

It is never easy to define what constitutes being in an abusive relationship and for some, the signs that your relationship is abusive can be difficult to spot. The Government definition of abuse is:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological; physical; sexual; financial or emotional.

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so-called ‘honour-based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.”

Is your relationship abusive?

If you are reading this advice article, you may already be questioning whether your relationship is healthy or abusive. You can ask yourself some questions to determine this:

  • Does your partner constantly criticise your appearance, your behaviour or how you act?

  • Do you feel your partner makes fun of you in public and humiliates you regularly?

  • Does your partner call you horrible names and is verbally abusive towards you?

  • Are you freely able to spend time and communicate with friends and family members?

  • Are you anxious about going out without your partner because they will get upset with you?

  • Do you find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behaviour to others?

  • If you have children, have you ever told them not to talk to others about what happens at home?

  • Has your partner ever threatened suicide or made threats if you leave?

  • Has your partner told you that if you leave you cannot take the children?

  • Has your partner forced to you have sex, watch porn or do other acts that you have not consented to?

  • Are you afraid to say no to sex?

  • Do you regularly get accused of flirting with others or accused of having relationships with others?

  • Do you feel able to work or does your partner object to you working?

  • Has your partner ever hurt you physically or throw things?

  • Do you feel nervous or afraid for your or your children’s safety when your partner becomes angry?

  • Does your partner text you non-stop when you are not with them?

  • Do you feel able to challenge your partner without feeling scared or anxious?

  • Does the term ‘walking on eggshells’ relate to you within your relationship?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions above, then it may be time to start seeking help and further support to get yourself safe and away from an abusive relationship.

Types of abuse

There are many types of abusive behaviour and often what some may describe as a difficult trait in their partners is in actual fact domestic abuse. The following types of abuse are not exhaustive and can contain a lot more examples.

Physical – Punching, pushing, kicking, slapping, biting, scratching, burns, restraining, head butting, choking and other forms of abuse that cause physical harm.

Psychological – Emotional blackmail including threats of suicide if partner leaves, exercising control over a partner, possessive behaviour, constant criticism, making the partner feel degraded, told they are ugly, negative comments on appearance, continually criticising partner’s parenting skills, demands for things that are not achievable so to use this as an excuse to be abusive and using fear and scare tactics to get what they want from you.

Emotional – Not allowing a partner to socialise or go out without them including appointments, screening contacts via phone or face to face, putting friends and family off from visiting, withdrawing access to phones, locking partner in-home, refusing to help with chores around the home, causing the partner to have disturbed sleep, refusing to help with children, telling partner they are constantly useless, taking away self-esteem and confidence, sharing partner’s private and personal information with others, calling a partner weak, putting you down in front of others and making promises not to hurt you again but still continues to do so.

Financial – Controls incoming wages or benefits, asks for receipts for all purchases to keep a check on a partner, stopping a partner from working, controlling bank accounts, giving partner limited funds as a way of controlling them, asking partner to prove their love by buying gifts beyond means, taking out loans and putting partner in debt, not paying bills and threats to stop money if a partner leaves them.

Sexual– Taking inappropriate images without consent,  humiliation through sexual acts, forcing partner to do sexual acts, demanding sex and gets upset or angry when refused, being aggressive in a sexual manner, recording inappropriate videos or audio without consent, forcing a partner to sleep with others, controlling behaviour on how partner dresses, forced to watch porn, forced into prostitution, rape and sexual assault and not allowed to use any contraception. 

Harassment and stalking – Following you and checking up on you, gives you no privacy, taking control of your phone, social media and computer, not allowing you to go anywhere alone or talking to anyone, reading your messages or pretending to be you on your online accounts and/or forcing you to engage in online sexual activity.