Man covering ears with woman talking in the background.

Domestic or spousal abuse is tragically all too common, and in the vast majority of cases, the abuse creeps up gradually on the victim. Beginning with small acts of over-protective behaviour and worrying incidents which are written off as one-offs, in time, the cycle of abuse is established and accepted as the norm. If you are worried that a partner is becoming abusive, you don't need to suffer in silence. There are a number of organisations that are on hand to help you out and get you away from a dangerous situation. Women's Aid 0808 2000 247 and ManKind Initiative 01823 334 244

How to recognise the signs of abuse

Abuse can be emotional, physical, or sexual - or often a combination of all three. Verbal abuse is just as serious as physical threats, causing a different kind of damage. Abuse commonly takes these forms in the early stages -

  • * Rigid control of finances - leading to the withdrawal of bank and credit cards
  • * Restricting you to an allowance, which has to be accounted for in full
  • * Dictating your career path by blocking employment or education opportunities
  • * Causing problems for you at work - such as making you miss days, calling and checking on you constantly during working hours
  • * Stealing from you

Answer these questions honestly. How do you feel?

  • * Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?
  • * Do you avoid mentioning certain people or topics of conversation?
  • * Do you feel that your behaviour deserves to be punished?
  • * Do you feel helpless and unable to explain why you are so unhappy?
  • * Do you sometimes think your ideas about being abused are crazy, and no one will believe you?

Daily control by your partner

  • * Would you describe your partner as jealous or possessive?
  • * Do you feel your partner is controlling where you go and what you do - such as your job and friendships
  • * Does your partner stop you from seeing friends and family as much as you would like to?
  • * Is your access to money and assets (such as phones and cars) limited?
  • * Is your access to these assets dependent on your agreeing to sex or other threats?
  • * Does your partner constantly check up on your movements?

How does your partner treat you?

  • * Does your partner ever shout at you?
  • * Does your partner criticise your opinions?
  • * Does your partner make you embarrassed to spend time with friends or family?
  • * Has your partner blamed you for them losing their temper?
  • * Does your partner treat you as their property or a sex object?

Abusive actions you have experienced

  • * Has your partner threatened to harm or kill you?
  • * Has your partner threatened to harm or kill your loved ones, such as children?
  • * Has your partner threatened to harm themselves, or commit suicide, if you leave?
  • * Have you been forced into sex?
  • * Have any of your belongings been destroyed?
  • * Have you been injured seriously enough to require medical treatment?

Look for these signs if you are worried a friend or family member is being abused

  • * Apologising for their partner's unacceptable behaviour
  • * Constantly reporting their movements to their partner when away from them
  • * Receiving multiple calls from their partner, especially if becoming harassing in tone.
  • * Describing their possessiveness or jealousy
  • * Having injuries, which are blamed on accidents
  • * Missing work or social occasions
  • * Dressing oddly for the weather - hiding signs of abuse with long sleeves etc.
  • * Having limited money
  • * Rarely being seen without their partner

In isolation, there can be reasonable explanations for people acting differently than they have before, but if several of these points match, there is a strong likelihood that an abusive relationship is forming or is already established. So don't keep quiet; call the experts or the police in urgent circumstances.