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Could my friend be abusing someone?

As with other areas of the website, we want to answer as many of your questions as possible. To that end, please click on one of the below questions to find the information you are looking for.

What is domestic violence and abuse? 

Domestic violence and abuse is any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Intimate partners could mean boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, or other sexual partner.

Family members includes step/half family (e.g. step-daughter or half-brother) and extended family (e.g. uncle, cousin, grandmother).

Domestic violence and abuse is rarely a one-off incident and is a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour through which the abuser seeks power over their victim.

It occurs across the whole of society, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, disability, religion, class, or lifestyle and income.

Crimes committed in the name of 'honour', forced marriage and female genital mutilation are also considered acts of domestic abuse.

Mental / emotional abuse

Does your friend / family member / neighbour criticise the way their partner looks all the time? Domestic violence and abuse often starts off small, with lots of different events that gradually chip away or erode the victim's confidence.

If your friend / family member / neighbour is being mentally or emotionally abusive, they might be: using language designed to humiliate; stalking; blaming; intimidating and threatening. They may also destroy the victim's personal belongings.  


Your friend / family member / neighbour may threaten to:

  • Take children away
  • Have children taken away
  • Have the victim deported
  • Have the victim sectioned
  • Abuse the victim's children, family, friends or pets
  • Kill someone
  • Commit suicide
  • Mutilate the victim or their loved ones
  • Stalk the victim

(any of which could be in person, via phone call, email or text message)

Intimidation and Isolation

Your friend / family member / neighbour may:

  • Repeatedly criticise the victim
  • Tell the victim that they are ugly / worthless / useless
  • Prevent the victim from having contact with family and friends
  • Humiliate the victim in front of others
  • Give the victim a curfew
  • Stop or monitor the victim's phone calls

Psychological Abuse

It is possible that your friend / family member / neighbour may:

  • Act jealously
  • Blame the victim for causing the abuse
  • Lie to the victim
  • Manipulate the victim to do as they want
  • Ignore the victim
  • Undermine or confuse the victim
  • Tell the victim that they are losing their mind

Financial abuse

If friend / family member / neighbour is being financially abusive they may be:

  • Building debt up in the victim's name
  • Withholding money from the victim
  • Stealing money from the victim
  • Limiting or preventing the victim from having access to money 
  • Not letting the victim work
  • Using family money for alcohol / drugs
  • Claiming and keeping the victim's benefits
  • Selling the victim's possessions
  • Not paying child support
  • Refusing to pay bills
  • Forcing the victim to earn money for them / another person
  • Threatening to report to the victim to the Benefits Agency or other authorities

Sexual abuse

Your friend / family member / neighbour may be asking the victim to do things in return for meeting their basic needs and requirements. Whether in a relationship or not, if someone does not want to have sex, they do not have to. If they are forcing someone against their will, they are being abusive.

Some forms of sexual abuse can include:

  • Rape
  • Forcing someone to engage in sexual acts
  • Degrading treatment
  • Sexual name-calling
  • Forcing someone to prostitute them self
  • Making someone wear clothes that they haven't chosen
  • Forcing someone to take part in or look at pornographic images
  • Forcing someone to have sexual relationships with other people

Sexual abuse of any form is never right.

Violence / physical abuse

Your friend / family member / neighbour may be directing violence and physical abuse at the victim, or at their family, friends or pets.

They may be doing the following:

  • Hitting / punching / kicking / shoving
  • Spitting
  • Strangling
  • Pulling hair
  • Making angry or physical threats
  • Biting
  • Burning
  • Using weapons
  • Forcing someone to use drugs and / or alcohol
  • Depriving someone of sleep
  • Hurting a pet
  • Invading other's space
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