Guidance

Domestic abuse: how to get help

Find out how to get help if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse.

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

There are different kinds of abuse that can happen in different contexts. The most prevalent type of domestic abuse occurs in relationships. But the definition of domestic abuse also covers abuse between family members, such as adolescent to parent violence and abuse. You can read our guidance on adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) (PDF, 682KB, 35 pages) .

Domestic abuse in a relationship: recognise it

There are different kinds of abuse, but it’s always about having power and control over you.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you might be in an abusive relationship.

Emotional abuse

Does your partner ever:

  • belittle you, or put you down?
  • blame you for the abuse or arguments?
  • deny that abuse is happening, or play it down?
  • isolate you from your family and friends?
  • stop you going to college or work?
  • make unreasonable demands for your attention?
  • accuse you of flirting or having affairs?
  • tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go, and what to think?
  • control your money, or not give you enough to buy food or other essential things?

Threats and intimidation

Does your partner ever:

  • threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • destroy things that belong to you?
  • stand over you, invade your personal space?
  • threaten to kill themselves or the children?
  • read your emails, texts or letters?
  • harass or follow you?

Physical abuse

The person abusing you may hurt you in a number of ways.

Does your partner ever:

  • slap, hit or punch you?
  • push or shove you?
  • bite or kick you?
  • burn you?
  • choke you or hold you down?
  • throw things?

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, whether they’re male or female.

Does your partner ever:

  • touch you in a way you don’t want to be touched?
  • make unwanted sexual demands?
  • hurt you during sex?
  • pressure you to have unsafe sex – for example, not using a condom?
  • pressure you to have sex?

If your partner has sex with you when you don’t want to, this is rape.

Have you ever felt afraid of your partner?

Have you ever changed your behaviour because you’re afraid of what your partner might do?

If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, there is help available.

Report it

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse find out how to report domestic abuse.

Seek help

We publish a list of organisations you can speak to for support

The Survivor’s Handbook, created by Women’s Aid, provides information for women on a wide range of issues, such as housing, money, helping your children, and your legal rights.

The guide also explains how to recognise domestic abuse, and identify whether you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship.

Help a friend if they’re being abused

If you’re worried a friend is being abused, let them know you’ve noticed something is wrong.

They might not be ready to talk, but try to find quiet times when they can talk if they choose to.

If someone confides in you that they’re suffering domestic abuse:

  • listen, and take care not to blame them
  • acknowledge it takes strength to talk to someone about experiencing abuse
  • give them time to talk, but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to
  • acknowledge they’re in a frightening and difficult situation
  • tell them nobody deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what the abuser has said
  • support them as a friend – encourage them to express their feelings, and allow them to make their own decisions
  • don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they’re not ready – that’s their decision
  • ask if they have suffered physical harm – if so, offer to go with them to a hospital or GP
  • help them report the assault to the police if they choose to
  • be ready to provide information on organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse

Women’s Aid has a list of useful links for websites and organisations providing relevant information and support

Get help from the police

Domestic violence disclosure scheme

Under this scheme you can ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past. This is called ‘right to ask’. If records show that you may be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

The “right to ask” also enables a third party, such as a friend or family member, to apply for a disclosure on behalf of someone they know. Again, the police can release information if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so.

In order to make an application under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme please contact the police. You can do this by:

  • visiting a police station
  • phoning 101
  • speaking to a member of the police on the street

If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, you should always call 999.

Read further information in the domestic violence disclosure scheme guidance.

Get help from UK Visas and Immigration if you don’t have settled status in the UK

Apply for settlement in your own right

If your relationship with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK has broken down because of domestic abuse you may be able to apply for settlement as a victim of domestic violence.

In light of this, the government offers the Destitute Domestic Violence concession, which provides help to victims of domestic abuse who are in a relationship in which they are financially dependent on an abusive partner, who have been admitted to the UK with leave as spouses, unmarried partners, same-sex partners or civil partners of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK.

Apply for access to benefits

The Destitution Domestic Violence concession offers domestic abuse victims 3 months’ leave outside the immigration rules with the ability to apply for access to public funds. This provides the opportunity to gain a temporary immigration status independent of the abuser and to fund safe accommodation, where victims of domestic abuse may consider applying for indefinite leave to remain or deciding to return to their country of origin.

Get help If you think you may be an abuser

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be an abuser, there is support available.

Respect: a helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators that directs them to programmes in the local area. The helpline also takes calls from (ex)partners, friends and relatives who are concerned about perpetrators.

Telephone: 0845 122 8606.

Further support materials

Help is available for those experiencing domestic abuse from the Department of Work and Pensions. This includes housing benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, a break from job seeking and Universal Credit adjustments.

Read information and practice guidelines for professionals protecting, advising and supporting victims of forced marriage.

Read the leaflet the Home Office developed with Southall Black Sisters aimed at women in black and minority ethnic communities: Three steps to escaping domestic violence.

Published 5 October 2018