Signs of domestic abuse in adults

What to look for if you suspect someone is experiencing domestic abuse

The current Home Office definition of domestic abuse is:

"Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality"

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Domestic abuse is about power and control and currently affects approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the UK.

The following signs may be indicative that someone is experiencing domestic abuse:

  • Is their partner jealous and possessive?
  • Does their partner try to isolate them by cutting them off from family and friends?
  • Does their partner have frequent mood swings, i.e. really nice one minute and abusive the next?
  • Does their partner control what they do, who they see, what they wear?
  • Does their partner monitor their movements, constantly phone or text to find out where they are?
  • Does their partner blame them for the abuse?
  • Does their partner humiliate them or insult them in front of others?
  • Is their partner verbally abusive?
  • Does their partner constantly criticise them?
  • Does their partner use anger or intimidation to make them comply with their demands?
  • Does their partner tell them that they are useless and couldn’t cope without them?
  • Has their partner threatened to hurt them or those close to them if they leave?
  • Does the person change their behaviour to avoid making their partner angry?
  • Does their partner force them to have sex when they don’t want to?

See the flowchart on domestic abuse.