Recognising abuse

Everyone has arguments and disagreements with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time. We may do things that cause unhappiness to those we care about, but if this begins to form a consistent pattern, then it can be an indication of domestic abuse.

If you are unsure if you are being subjected to abuse, you may want to attend one of our community support programmes such as the freedom programme to find out more.

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Women in this position often…


Am I going crazy?
Is it my fault?
Did I bring this on myself?
Am I overreacting or being too sensitive?
Is this normal?
If I seek help, they won’t take me seriously or believe me.
I don’t have any proof. How can I be sure that it’s not just in my head?


“He puts so much doubt in my head”
“I just do what I’m told for a quiet life”
“I’m not sure it’s abuse as he’s never struck me”
“I don’t want to call Women’s Aid since all I want to do is talk and cry”
“He says he doesn’t want to hit me; he says I do things that make him angry, and so it’s my fault for upsetting him”


Full of self-doubt


Bury their feelings and “get on with it”
Go along with / gives into their partner to avoid arguments or other repercussions
Rationalise ‘abusive’ behaviour

What should I do next?

If you are:

  • Experiencing abuse and need advice on what to do next
  • Not sure and you need someone to talk to
  • Worried about someone else

You can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline

Run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge 0808 2000 2470808 2000 247
Calls to this number are free of charge and will not appear in your call history.  All calls are private, confidential and, if you prefer, anonymous.  The helpline can provide access to an interpreter for non-English-speaking callers.  For further information, see the Helpline FAQs (this will open a new window).

If you’re not yet ready to make a call, online forums on websites such as Women’s Aid* provide a safe, anonymous, space for women to share their experiences and support one another. There are specific sections for different topics, including ‘is it abuse?’.
*Note that this forum does not allow seeking advice on behalf of a third party.

However, make sure you take a look at our advice on Covering Your Tracks to ensure your visits stay hidden from a potential perpetrator.

Worried about a friend or relative?

Take a look at the section I’m worried about someone else.

How can Nottingham Central Women’s Aid help?

We deliver courses that directly empower women and help them process their experiences. For a full list of services we can provide, take a look at our services page

Remember: you are not alone

Nottingham Central Women’s Aid has helped countless women and their families escape from abusive situations.  Read about some of the women we have helped on the stories page

If you’re ready to take the next step, take a look at our page on planning to leave.

Leaving an abusive relationship