Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is when someone is being hurt or victimised by their partner, boyfriend or girlfriend.
A young man puts his arm around a young woman who is looking uncertain

Arguments within families are normal. Family members and partners sometimes disagree, and it's OK to be angry. But anger needs to be expressed safely, so that:

  • no one is hit or hurt,
  • no one feels afraid,
  • and no one feels abused.

When arguments involve violence or threats, intimidation, manipulation, lying or always putting people down, then there may be an abusive situation in your home.

Abuse can happen to anyone, of any age. It happens to clever and strong people, as well as vulnerable people. It is very difficult to cope with for everybody. There is no one reason why abusive situations happen. They can be difficult to sort out, but support is available.

Crucial: If someone is in immediate danger or badly hurt dial emergency services 999.

What is Abuse

Abuse is when someone does bad things to someone else over a period of time.

There are different kinds of abuse:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse

See Types of Abuse for more information.

When a abuse happens between people in a relationship, then it is called relationship abuse or domestic abuse. Part of learning about relationships, is learning to spot the signs of an abusive relationship. This video talks about some of the signs of relationship abuse:

Why does it happen?

Most relationships have their ups and downs. But some relationships seem to get worse over time. Young people may be particularly at risk, because they have not had many relationships before, or may be more inclined to take risks and ignore advice. But domestic abuse can happen at any age, including to very old people. Where there is a big power imbalance in the relationship (for example, if someone is much older, or has a lot more friends, independence or money, or considers themselves to be much better than the other person) then there is  a higher risk of abuse, because there is less respect.

Why does it carry on?

Relationships often carry on, even when they have problems. This can be hard to understand for other people not in the relationship. But each situation is different.

Reasons that make ending an abusive relationship difficult include:

  • The victim may still love the person being abusive
  • They may want to stay but want the abuse to stop
  • Wanting to help the other person
  • Shared home, friends, bank accounts, cars, etc.
  • Children and other family relationships
  • Fear of the abuser, of being alone, of people's reactions
  • Thinking the abusive behaviour is normal
  • Feeling too ill, tired, or depressed to cope with ending a relationship

If domestic abuse is happening in your relationship, then it is important to change or end the relationship. It is normal to need help to stop the abuse for good. Support available includes things like counselling, and learning ways to change relationships and improve behaviour.

Crucial: Challenging abusive attitudes and language  and Sexual Harrassment helps create a safer environment for everybody, and makes it easier to ask for help. Find out more from Disrespect Nobody.

Helplines for domestic abuse:

  • Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Service, Oxfordshire specific help and information - call 0800 731 0055
  • Refuge (for women, men, and children experiencing abuse) - call 24 hours 0808 2000 247
  • Men's Advice Line (for men experiencing abuse) - call 0808 801 0327
  • Galop (for people in Lesbian, Gay, Bi, or Trans* relationships experiencing abuse) - call 0800 999 5428 or 0800 9995428

Domestic abuse within families

In homes where there is abuse going on, 90% of children are aware that it's happening.

Domestic abuse of a parent or someone else in your home usually causes problems for the children in the household. This might include feeling sad and frightened, or having to deal with problems on your own, or caring for brothers and sisters.

Home is where you should feel safe, supported and protected. No one should be hurting another person and no one should be hurting you. When domestic abuse is happening, everyone in the household suffers. If:

  • You are witnessing violence between family members
  • You're afraid of a family member getting hurt, or of getting hurt yourself
  • You no longer feel safe at home

It's not your fault, you are not alone and you can get help. Lots of young people find themselves in this situation, as relationships in their family suffer problems, break up or change.

Getting help with domestic abuse within your home:

  • Talk to a trusted adult such as a teacher, School Health Nurse or another worker
  • Call Childline on 0800 1111
  • Call the police on 999 if you are in immediate danger, or 101 if not an emergency


When someone tries repeatedly to contact, harass, contact, hurt or upset you, it is called stalking. Stalking can consist of many types of behaviour, including:

  • Regularly sending flowers or gifts
  • Making prank, nasty or persistent phone calls or texts
  • Threats of violence to you or others
  • Damaging property
  • Following, spying and chasing
  • Attacking

Stalking can be dangerous, even if the person stalking insists that they mean you no harm. Every year in the UK 1.2 million women and 900,000 men are victims of stalking harassment. The harassment can go on for months or even years. If you are being stalked, it is important to let someone know right away.

Take Action: You can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or get advice at any time from their anti-stalking webpages.

Getting help if you are being stalked:

  • Call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300
  • Call the police on 999 if you are in immediate danger, or 101 if not an emergency

Risky Relationships

Some relationships are riskier than others. Things like substance misuse, mental health difficulties, addiction and joblessness can increase the stress in a relationship. Past experiences can also cause difficulties in relationships. But recovery is possible and support is available.

My experience: We still have ups and downs but have learned ways to cope I never thought I was in a domestic violence relationship even when I broke my wrist and ended up in hospital by falling badly after being pushed during an argument. The police Domestic Violence Unit were involved, which really upset me and my partner. He was not allowed to see me in hospital, and for a few weeks afterwards. Over the next few months we got back together, and realised we both came from homes affected by domestic violence and would need help and support if we were going to "break the chain". That was two years ago. We still have our ups and downs, but have learned loads of ways to cope with those explosive feelings that used to end in violence. We are expecting our first baby which is typically a time when domestic violence gets worse, but we are coping well, and know there is loads of support out there for us if we need it. If you and your partner want to change, don’t be afraid to go for help, even if you are a man. - Ayla,18

Find out more


Posted by Hughes
Posted ago
I need to talk to someone, where can I get help?

Hi, I've edited your comment to remove personal details, but I would like to reassure you that you have been heard and listened to. I would like to encourage you, when you are ready, to contact the Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse helpline on 800 731 0055 - it's open Monday – Friday 9.30am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm. This is a freephone number that will not show on your telephone bill but may appear on an itemised mobile phone bill. You can find further help and support here and from

Posted by Bobbie Stewart
Posted ago
Ssomeone I know is being victimised. They are too scared to go to the police. What can I do?

First of all, thanks very much for leaving this question. It can be very difficult to know what to do in this situation. But, domestic abuse is a crime and can be reported by anyone - it doesn't have to be the victim. You can contact your local police on 101 or report anonymously to Crimestoppers - instructions on how to report are here - If anyone is in immediate danger (being attacked or threatened) call 999.

For more information, and to talk things over with someone, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247 - it doesn't have to be the victim who calls, and it doesn't have to be about a current relationship. 

Support is available to protect the person being abused, and make sure there is no further contact. There is also support that will help the abusing person change their behaviour and stop victimising others. You can find out more about all the kinds of help and support available here

I edited your comment to remove the personal information, in order to protect the privacy of those involved. 

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