Relationship abuse is a very serious matter. There is help out there for you. It can be hard to tell other people what’s going on, and hard to get out of the relationship even if this is what you want to do.
You can find online guides on how to deal with domestic violence by:
If you are experiencing relationship abuse there are services which can help you get and stay safe; your local CAB can help you find someone to help.
What kinds of behaviour count as relationship abuse?
Relationship abuse can take many forms and is covered by the Domestic Violence Act 1995.
The term “domestic violence” includes the following types of behaviour between people in a relationship (and people within a household e.g. flatmates):
- Financial abuse (e.g. stealing or withholding money)
- Physical abuse (e.g. hitting)
- Psychological or emotional abuse (e.g. calling you names, threatening suicide)
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My partner is abusive to me and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m scared and ashamed but I need help. Where do I go?
An abusive partner might try and make you stay by creating a situation where you are dependent on them for money or shelter, or by threatening you or someone you care about (for example). There is help available to support you.
In situations where you feel the immediate safety and wellbeing of you or your children is under threat, you need to contact the Police in the first instance on 111. They can issue a Police Safety Order against your partner, which prevents them from having any contact with you for up to five days. More about Police Safety Orders is on our Protection Orders page.
If you want support and advice about relationship abuse or you want to leave an abusive relationship, Women’s Refuge provides information, support and safe houses for women (and their children).
Women’s Refuge can help with making a safety plan and can provide support whether or not you feel ready to leave the relationship. Their website includes online resources that can help you decide on what to do if you’re in an abusive relationship and they also have a 24 hour crisis line 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843) for confidential help. Find a Women’s Refuge near you.
Shine is a charitable organisation focused on ‘doing what works to stop domestic abuse’. It has a range of resources and programmes and also has a Domestic Abuse Helpline 0508 744 633 which you can call for help and advice if you are in an abusive relationship.
Are You OK?
The ‘Are you OK’ website has information about family violence, what it is, and where to get help. You can also call them on 0800 456 450 for information and to find out about services available to you.
Whether or not you continue to live with your partner, there may be a range of support available to help you. If you would like to discuss your situation and explore your options further in a safe environment where your privacy and confidentiality are respected, your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you.
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How can I protect my kids?
Even if your partner is not directly abusing your children, they could already be suffering from abuse simply from having to witness the abuse that you’re receiving.
You might feel unable to help your children because you’re scared for your own safety, or because you feel you have nowhere to go. You have a legal responsibility to keep your children safe (read about this on our page about reporting abuse of children and vulnerable adults) and the best thing you can do is to get help for yourself and your children so that you can be free from domestic abuse.
You can call the Women’s Refuge on 0800 REFUGE (0800 733 843) or the Shine Domestic Abuse Helpline 0508 744 633 for help and advice.
Or you can discuss your situation and explore your options further in a safe environment where your privacy and confidentiality are respected, at your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
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What sort of counselling services are available to someone who has been in an abusive relationship?
If you have been in an abusive relationship, counselling may help you deal with what you’ve been through. If your children witnessed the abuse, they may benefit from counselling too. ACC provides funding for counselling to eligible people who have experienced sexual abuse or assault.
Victim Support can give you help and advice on what to do and where to go for the counselling you might need. They are trained to help people who have been victims of crime or abuse (including witnessing abuse). If you’d like to speak with Victim Support, call them on 0800 842 846.
Women’s Refuge runs support groups for both women and children.
There are many organisations and individuals which provide counselling for people dealing with the trauma of an abusive relationship; your local CAB can help you find a one near you.
For more information on counselling, see our Relationship Counselling section.
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I’ve left an abusive relationship, but I’m afraid that my ex will come and find me. I need protection. What can I do?
You can apply for a protection order to keep your former partner away from you. If he doesn’t abide by the protection order, he can be arrested and fined or imprisoned. See our Protection Orders page for more about this option, and about Police Safety Orders.
Women’s Refuge has several resources on how to keep safe during and after an abusive relationship, including a Safety Plan for after you've left. These resources are available on their website.
If you’re worried that your ex-partner will harm you or your children, you can ask your lawyer to apply to the Family Court without notice. This means that the Court can move quickly to ensure that you and your children are safe.
If you can’t afford a lawyer you may be eligible for legal aid. Your local Women’s Refuge can help you apply for a protection order, as well as provide a number of other services (e.g. accessing a lawyer’s services and supporting you in court matters). A Shine advocate can also help you with getting a protection order.
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Is there help for male victims of relationship abuse?
Domestic abuse is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women and children, but men can also be victims of relationship abuse. Relationships in which men are the victims are often a well-kept secret.
There are not many services specifically for men in this situation, however men can still get access to help and advice by calling Shine's Domestic Abuse Helpline (0508 774 633) or the Are You OK? line (0800 456 450). They can refer you to local service providers in your area who can help.