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Abusive relationships


It can be hard to accept that your relationship is an abusive one – that you or your partner may be behaving in a bad and unacceptable way. For example, some people find it easier to play down abuse, saying perhaps, "It was only a push", or "He didn’t really mean it". Sometimes people find excuses for abusive behaviour, blaming it on, for example, drink or someone else’s behaviour. Sometimes people may be too embarrassed or ashamed to admit to others – or even themselves – that they're abusing their partner or they're being abused. Many people do experience violence and abuse in their relationships. Types of abuse Abuse can be:

  • Physical, with behaviour such as pushing, hitting or throwing things.

  • Verbal, where one partner constantly puts down the other or shouts.

  • Controlling, where one partner exerts control over the other, perhaps sexually or financially.

  • In any relationship, whatever your sexuality, age, income, or background.

Safety as a priority Abusive relationships can be very damaging to relationships and cause great harm. Often, if the person doing the abusing isn't prepared to take responsibility for their behaviour and seek help, the only way forward is to leave the relationship and separate. Separation itself can be difficult. It can be a time when the abuse actually increases. Disputes over child contact arrangements can in particular heighten emotions and result in further abuse. It’s really important that the first priority is to keep everyone safe, especially children.

Finding help If you're a woman wanting help and advice about violence or abuse, call the freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. If you're in immediate danger or need urgent assistance call 999. If you recognise that you've been abusive to your partner and you want to stop there are organisations that can help you. Call the Respect phoneline on 0808 802 4040 for more help.


Violence and abuse by women 'Every time I try to talk about things with my ex she screams, shouts and punches me.' Women, as well as men, can be responsible for domestic violence. Dealing with a partner or ex who reacts to your separation with violence is very difficult. Her feelings may be valid, but it’s never OK to express them by lashing out, verbally or physically. If your female partner or ex is abusive or violent, it can help to:

  • Prepare in advance for situations where you fear there may be violence.

  • Keep conversations focused on practical issues. Avoid getting drawn into conversations about the past.

  • Arrange to have conversations in a public place, at a neutral venue or with the help of a professional mediator.

  • Let someone else know what’s happening

  • Keep a record of incidents

The police It’s always better to try to get away than to hit back or use restraint if you find yourself in a violent situation. If you hit back and the police are called, they may think you’re the abuser, particularly if you’re male. The police though should take your reports of violence seriously, whether you’re male or female.

Find support Many men find it hard to talk about their female partner’s violence. It’s normal for the experience to bring up a range of feelings. The Men’s Advice Line (0808 801 0327) can help.

My partner is violent. How can I leave the relationship safely? The decision to end a relationship can be a courageous one. There’s no rule that says you have to continue trying to work things out, especially if the relationship has become violent or abusive. It’s not healthy for anybody to be in a violent relationship.

Turning your decision into action though can seem tricky and you may need to think your departure through carefully. Usually, violence is a result of one partner trying to control the relationship. This means that finding out that you want to leave could provoke a violent response from your partner as they may feel they’re losing control. Put your own safety and that of your children first and try not to waver. Consider your partner’s reaction If you feel it’s safe to do so, you could talk to your partner about your decision. It can help if you:

  • Spend some time thinking through what you want to say and how you can say it.

  • Avoid getting drawn into a long conversation.

  • Stick to talking about practicalities.

  • Remember that you don’t need to persuade your partner that leaving is the right thing. It’s enough that you want to go.

If you think your partner's response to your decision is likely to be violent, you could leave without telling them. You could:

  • Use phone, email or post to let your partner know about your decision after you’ve left.

  • Choose not to let them know where you are at all if you feel it’s unsafe to do so.

Plan ahead

Ending your relationship can be easier if you:

  • Talk to people you can trust. Refuge can talk through options with you on its freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

  • Think through what you’ll need when you go, remembering documents such as passport, birth certificate and bank details.

  • Have a packed bag ready in case you need to leave in a hurry.

  • Learn how to hide your internet history.

If you’re a woman who is being abusive or violent then you can take your first step toward change by calling Respect on 0808 802 4040.

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