Recognising abuse

Recognising abuse

Domestic violence is caused by an abuser’s desire to gain power and control over their partner. Abusers use a range of different tactics – physical, emotional, sexual, financial – to achieve this.


This list may help you to identify whether you are experiencing domestic violence:

  • Are you afraid of your partner?
  • Do you feel isolated? Does he cut you off from family and friends?
  • Is he jealous and possessive?
  • Does he humiliate or insult you?
  • Does he verbally abuse you?
  • Does he say you are useless and couldn’t cope without him?
  • Does he physically hurt you? Does he shove, slap, punch or kick you?
  • Has he threatened to hurt you or people close to you?
  • Does he constantly criticise you?
  • Does he have sudden changes of mood which dominate the household?
  • Is he charming one minute and abusive the next? Like Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde?
  • Does he control your money?
  • Do you change your behaviour to avoid triggering an attack?
  • Are you unsure of your own judgement?
  • Does he damage your possessions?
  • Does he smash up the furniture?
  • Does he threaten to harm or kill the pets?
  • Does he threaten to kidnap or get custody of the children?
  • Does he drive fast because he knows it scares you?
  • Does he lock you out of the house during an argument?
  • Does he tell you what to wear or how to do your hair?


Domestic violence takes many different forms.


Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the most recognisable form of abuse. It can range from a slap or shove to a black eye, cut lip, or broken bone. In the most extreme cases it can result in death.

Physical abuse doesn’t always leave visible marks or scars. Having your hair pulled or an egg thrown at you is domestic violence too. Don’t underestimate what is happening to you. Over time the violence usually gets worse.


Emotional abuse

Many women experience domestic violence without ever being physically abused. Sometimes they’re not sure if what is happening to them is domestic violence. They worry that no-one will take them seriously if they talk about it.

If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused. Emotional abuse is an attack on your personality rather than your body.

Emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. It often leads to physical violence over time.


Sexual abuse

Your partner should not use force or threats to make you have sex. He should not make you perform sexual acts with which you are uncomfortable. He should not criticise your performance.

If he does any of the above, he is using sex to assert his authority and control you.


Financial abuse

One of the most powerful ways a man can control his partner is by using financial abuse.

There are many different forms of financial abuse, but it might include things like your partner taking your money; stopping you from working; placing all the bills or debts in your name; or monitoring how you spend money and other financial resources e.g. the telephone.

If you feel that your partner is limiting your financial independence, you are experiencing financial abuse. Find out more about financial abuse.


For more information about the warning signs of domestic violence, click here.

To find out more about domestic violence, read Power and Control, Why Charming Men Can Make Dangerous Lovers (Vermilion) by Sandra Horley CBE, Refuge’s chief executive.