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Domestic violence explained

Domestic violence is when someone hurts or bullies their boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, husband, wife or family member.

A sad young girl with an angry father in the background

How does it happen?

It can happen when people live together, live separately or even when they have split up.

It can happen to anyone, including both men and women. Domestic violence is sometimes called domestic abuse.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a person’s way of getting power and control over someone else. It may involve:

  • Emotional abuse – such as constantly putting a person down, checking where they are, stopping them seeing their friends or family, or stopping them having a job.
  • Physical abuse or assault – such as hitting, pushing, kicking, pinching, throwing or smashing things, or making threats to hurt someone.
  • Sexual abuse – making someone do sexual things they don’t want to, including sex crimes such as rape or online sex crimes such as posting sexual photos of someone on the internet.
  • Financial abuse – for example, not letting someone have money, checking what someone spends money on, or taking someone’s money from them (theft).
  • Honour-based violence – when someone is threatened or hurt because their family or community believes they have brought ‘shame’ on them.
  • Stalking or harassment – following, watching, threatening and being abusive to someone.

You may feel you are experiencing abuse like this in your own relationship. This is called relationship abuse.

What can I do?

It can be frightening to see or hear someone in your family that you love being hurt. Remember that the abuse is not your fault and it is not down to you to make it stop. 

If you're worried about domestic violence happening to someone you care about, it’s important to keep yourself safe. Don’t try to stop the fighting or arguments – you might get hurt. If you're feeling worried, scared, sad or angry, you may find that talking to someone it can help. 

Some things you can do:

  • Tell an adult you trust – this could include a teacher, a family member, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation; we have some tips on asking for help.
  • If it's safe, think about telling the person who is being hurt how you feel about what is happening.
  • Keep a record of things that happen – don’t do this or keep this record where the person who is hurting someone can find this - as this may make you unsafe.
  • With a safe adult, you could develop a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult. 
  • Think about reporting it to the police. If you are at immediate risk of getting hurt, call 999. 

If you're worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help.

Your questions answered about domestic violence

 

Why can’t they just leave, or tell them to leave?

Domestic violence can happen over time, and it can be really difficult to leave. This may be because the person is scared, they do not have the money to leave, or they hope the abuse will stop. It's never their fault that this has happened but there are people who can help them to get safe.  

 

Can domestic violence happen to men?

Domestic violence can happen to both men and women, and in both straight and same-sex relationships. Domestic violence is when one person has control and power over another; it doesn’t depend on their gender or physical strength.

 

I only heard it happen and wasn’t hurt, why am I upset?

Just because you weren’t physically hurt, doesn’t mean that this has not affected you. It can be very upsetting to see or hear domestic violence and it’s important that you talk to someone who can help.

 

Will I make it worse if I tell on someone in my family?

If domestic violence is happening in your family it means that things are already not ok. By talking to a trusted adult, you can get the support you and the people in your family need and help keep you and them safe. It's important that if you're scared or unsafe that you talk to a trusted adult as soon as you can. 

Who can help me?

You & Co – you can talk to one of our support workers on a one-to-one basis, and we can offer you help and support whether you decide to report a crime to police or not. We can give you information on how crime can affect you and how to cope with it, what to do and what to expect if you decide to report a crime to police, and how to move on from being a victim. You can find out about support available near you on this website.

ChildLine – they offer 24-hour support for young people on a range of issues. Call 0800 1111 

National Domestic Violence Helpline – this free phone 24-hour helpline for women provides information and advice if you are experiencing domestic violence yourself or if you're worried about someone else. Call 0808 2000 247

The Hide Out – this website helps children and young people understand more about domestic violence and what they can do

The Mix – this website provides information and support for 16-25 year olds on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by telephone, email, text or webchat, for young people under 25; call 0808 808 4994.

Asking for help

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