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 who are on hand to help you out and get you away from a dangerous situation. Women's Aid 0808 2000 247 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 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?

If you are worried a friend or family member is being abused, look for these signs

  • 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.