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Domestic abuse

Recognising domestic abuse

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.  It is very common. In the vast majority of cases, it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.


Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include:

  • Coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
  • Psychological abuse
  • Economic / financial abuse
  • Online or digital abuse
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse


What signs to look for

If you believe that you or someone else could be a victim of domestic abuse, there are signs that you can look out for including (but not limited to):

  • Being withdrawn, or being isolated from family and friends
  • Having bruises, burns or bite marks
  • Having finances controlled, or not being given enough to buy food or pay bills
  • Not being allowed to leave the house, or stopped from going to college or work
  • Having internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading texts, emails or letters
  • Being repeatedly belittled, put down or told you are worthless
  • Being pressured into sex, forced to view inappropriate material, degrading treatment related to sexuality
  • Being told that abuse is your fault, or that you’re overreacting
  • Use of pressure tactics (e.g. sulking, threatening to withhold money, threatening to report the victim to social services, taking away sources of support e.g. phone, threatening suicide, pressure to use drugs or alcohol)
  • Breaking trust – lying, withholding information, having other romantic or sexual partners, breaking promises or agreements
  • Harassment, being followed or stalked, repeatedly checking who has phoned you
  • Denial that the abuse is happening, being called a liar


Myths about domestic abuse

Myth – Domestic abuse isn’t that common.

Reality - On average a woman is killed by her male partner or former partner every four days in the UK England and Wales. Domestic abuse has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime, and on average, the police receive over 100 emergency calls relating to domestic abuse every hour.  According to data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, an estimated 7.5% (1.6 million) of women experienced some form of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2019. An estimated 28.4% of women aged 16 to 59 years have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16 years (ONS, 2019).

Myth – Women are more likely to be attacked by a stranger than someone who claims to love them.

Reality - In fact, the opposite is true.  Women are far more likely to be assaulted, raped and murdered by men known to them than by strangers.  According to Rape Crisis, only around 10% of rapes are committed by men unknown to the victim.  Women are far likelier to be attacked by a man they know and trust.

Myth – If the abuse were that bad, the victim would just leave.

Reality – People stay in abusive relationships for many different reasons, and it can be very difficult for someone to leave an abusive partner – even if they want to. Like any other relationship, one that ends in abuse began with falling in love and being in love. Abuse rarely starts at the beginning of a relationship, but when it is established and often harder to leave.  A person may still be in love with their partner and believe them when they say they are sorry and it won’t happen again; they may be frightened for their life or for the safety of their children if they leave; they may have nowhere to go; they may have no financial independence.  Abusers often isolate their partners from family and friends in order to control them, making it even more difficult for an abused person to exit the relationship.  People in abusive relationships need support and understanding – not judgement.

Myth – Domestic abuse always involves physical violence.

Reality – It can be an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner.

Myth – The abuser must have been provoked.

Reality - The myth is dangerous because any reference to ‘provocation’ means that we are blaming the victim and relieving the abuser of responsibility for their actions.  Abuse or violence of any kind is never the victim’s fault. Responsibility always lies with the perpetrator, and with them alone.

Myth – Domestic abuse is a private family matter, not a social issue.

Reality - Violence and abuse incurs high costs for society: hospital treatment, medication, court proceedings, lawyers’ fees, imprisonment – not to mention the psychological and physical impact on those who experience it.

Myth – All couples argue, that’s not abuse that’s a normal relationship.

Reality - Abuse and disagreement are not the same things.  Different opinions are normal and completely acceptable in healthy relationships.  Abuse is not a disagreement – it is the use of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological violence or threats in order to govern and control another person’s thinking, opinions, emotions and behaviour.

Myth - Alcohol and drugs make people more violent.

Reality - Alcohol and drugs can make existing abuse worse, or be a catalyst for an attack, but they do not cause domestic abuse. Many people use alcohol or drugs and do not abuse their partner, so it should never be used to excuse violent or controlling behaviour. The perpetrator alone is responsible for their actions.

Myth – An abuser can be a good parent even if they abuse their partner – the parents’ relationship doesn’t have to affect the children.

Reality - An estimated 90% of children whose mothers are abused witness the abuse. The effects are traumatic and long-lasting. When a child witnesses domestic abuse, this is child abuse. Between 40% and 70% of these children are also direct victims of the abuse which is happening at home.


Sources of help and support

Emergency support


Call 999 from a mobile - if prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard and this will transfer your call to the police.  Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow police to track your location.


Call 999 from a landline - if the operator can only hear background noise and cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, you will be connected to a police call handler.  If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick up again.  When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about your location should be automatically available to the call handlers to help provide a response.

Difficulty communicating verbally

If you are deaf or can’t verbally communicate, you can register with the emergencySMS service. Text REGISTER to 999. You will get a text, which tells you what to do next. Do this when it is safe so you can text when you are in danger.



There is a locally commissioned specialist domestic abuse service as a first port of call rather than the national helpline as this service can provide a local response.  It has been jointly commissioned by NYCC, City of York and the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and provides support for victims of domestic abuse across North Yorkshire and City of York.

The commissioned support provider is IDAS and they hold the contracts for the following victims services:

They have their own helpline covering North Yorkshire and Barnsley - 03000 110 110  and a host of information on their website which includes a live chat facility for both professionals and victims - IDAS

You can also speak to a GP, health visitor, nurse practitioner or midwife.



Citizen’s Advice

Galop - LGBTQ+ can call Galop for emotional and practical support

0800 999 5428

Hestia - If you are an employer looking to respond effectively to a disclosure of domestic abuse from an employee, or looking for other advice and guidance around supporting employees affected by domestic abuse

Everyone's Business Advice Line on 07770480437 or 0203 8793695 or via email between 10am-3pm Monday to Friday for support.

Karma Nirvana for forced marriage and honour crimes.

0800 5999 247 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)


ManKind support men suffering from domestic abuse from their current or former wife or partner (including same-sex partner).

0182 3334 244 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm)

Confidential helpline available for male victims of domestic abuse and male victims of domestic violence across the UK.

Men's Advice Line for non-judgemental information and support for male victims of domestic abuse.

0808 8010 327

Webchat also available

National Domestic Abuse Helpline (24 hour, Freephone, run by Refuge)

The staff will offer confidential, non-judgemental information and support

0808 2000 247



If you are worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact the NSPCC helpline to speak to a counsellor.

Call on 0808 800 5000, email or fill in the online form.

UK government

List of the main organisations you can speak to for support.

UK government Forced Marriage Unit

020 7008 0151 (out of hours 020 7008 1500 - ask for the Global Response Centre)
From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151

Women’s Aid

National charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children.  They have been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic violence and abuse through practice for over 45 years. They empower survivors by keeping their voices at the heart of their work, working with and for women and children by listening to them and responding to their needs.


List of useful links for websites and organisations providing relevant information and support


Women can email Staff will respond to your email within 5 working days