What is domestic abuse and how can I get support?

If you are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse, or are worried about someone who might be, find out where you can go for advice and help.
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The information in this article is taken from Refuge, Women’s Aid and Woman’s Trust.

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence. In most cases, it is by a partner or ex-partner but could also be by a family member or carer. It is very common.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity. However, statistics show most domestic abuse is carried out by men and experienced by women.

Domestic abuse is never the fault of the person who is experiencing it.

Domestic abuse is a crime.

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Domestic abuse and coronavirus

Measures introduced by the Government to tackle coronavirus will mean many people will be feeling unsafe staying in a home with an abusive person, isolated from their support networks.

In response, the Government has said the coronavirus household isolation instructions do not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid has put together advice and information about support available.

Coronavirus safety advice

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include, but is not limited to:

  • coercive control and ‘gaslighting’ (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • financial or economic abuse
  • online or digital abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • emotional and/or psychological abuse
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • harassment or stalking

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Signs of domestic abuse

Has someone close to you:

  • threatened or humiliated you, maybe in front of others
  • damaged your belongings or property
  • controlled what you do
  • controlled how you use, or have access to, money
  • followed or visited you without your permission
  • been putting you down constantly, criticising you
  • blamed their culture, religion or personal problems as an excuse for their behaviour towards you
  • pushed, bullied, slapped, kicked, punched or seriously hurt you
  • forced you to have sex when you don't want to
  • forced you to make decisions you don't agree with (personal, physical, financial, legal or maybe about a family member)
  • threatened you or made you fear for your  safety

Women’s Aid has an online questionnaire, which might help you to recognise if you are in an abusive relationship.

Online questionnaire

What to do if you're in immediate danger

If you or someone you know are in danger you should phone 999 and ask for the police.

If you are unable to talk on the phone, dial 999, listen to the questions from the operator and respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. Then follow the instructions depending on whether you are calling from a mobile or a landline.

If you call from a mobile

If prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard - this will transfer your call to the police. Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow police to track your location.

If you call 999 from a landline

If only background noise can be heard and BT operators cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, then you will be connected to a police call handler. If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick up again. When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about your location should be automatically available to the call handlers to help respond.

If you or someone you know are in danger you should phone 999 and ask for the police.

If you are unable to talk on the phone, dial 999, listen to the questions from the operator and respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. Then follow the instructions depending on whether you are calling from a mobile or a landline.

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Ask for 'ANI'

The Government have launched a new code word scheme, where if you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help you can ask for ‘ANI’ in any participating pharmacy.

ANI stands for Action Needed Immediately but is pronounced Annie. If a pharmacy has the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo on display, it means they are ready to help you.

The pharmacy will offer you a private space, provide you with a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.

Organisations and charities that can support you

Refuge - National Domestic Abuse Helpline 

Refuge runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which you can call for free, and in confidence, 24 hours a day. Its website provides guidance and support for people affected by domestic abuse, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved in ones. It also has a form you can use to book a safe time for a call from them. 

0808 2000 247


Women's Aid

Women's Aid works with women and children to end abuse. If you're experiencing domestic abuse you can chat to them using their instant messaging service, email one of their support workers, speak with other women in their forum of survivors or get help and advice from their survivor's handbook.


Woman's Trust

Woman’s Trust is a specialist mental health charity, providing free counselling and therapy for women who have experienced domestic abuse.


Man Kind

Man Kind support men suffering from domestic abuse from their current or former partner (including same-sex partners). Their confidential helpline is available weekdays 10 am - 4 pm. 


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Galop provides Hate Crime, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence support services to LGBTQ+ victims and survivors by telephone, text and WhatsApp. Their helpline is available 10 am - 5 pm Monday to Friday and until 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday. 

0800 999 5428



Imkaan is a UK based, Black feminist organisation addressing violence against Black and minority women and girls. Their website has a list of specialist organisations by and for BME women.


Southall Black Sisters

Southall Black Sisters offer specialist support, advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse. 


Karma Nirvana

Karma Nirvana supports victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage. Their helpline is open 9 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday. 

0800 5999 247


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Latin America Women's Aid runs the only two refuges in Europe by and for Latin American women and children fleeing gender-based violence. They offer advice in Spanish, Portuguese and English. 

0753 442 4826 (Spanish and English) - 9.30 am - 5.30 pm

0746 200 3324 (Portuguese and English) - 9.30 am - 1 pm



SignHealth provides domestic abuse service support for deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL).

020 3947 2601 (call) 

07970 350366 (text, WhatsApp or Facetime)



Stay Safe East

Stay Safe East provides specialist and holistic advocacy and support to disabled victims and survivors of abuse. Their helpline is open 10 am - 5 pm, Monday to Thursday.

0208 519 7241

07587 134122 (text)


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