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Concerned someone you know may be experiencing domestic abuse?

It might be nothing, but it could mean everything: a guide for people who think their friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may be in an abusive relationship

We've launched a new domestic abuse awareness campaign calling on people to look out for signs of domestic abuse and not ignore any ‘gut feeling’ that something could be wrong.

The campaign encourages people to report concerns to the independent charity Crimestoppers, where information can be passed anonymously.

You can contact Crimestoppers anonymously via their 24/7 phone number - 0800 555 111, or visit the Crimestoppers give information page

You don't have to give your name or any of your personal details and calls are never traced.

This page gives advice on the signs of domestic abuse and what you should do if you suspect a friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may be in an abusive relationship.


What is domestic abuse?

The term ‘domestic abuse’ can be very confusing and people often think that it only refers to a person being physically hurt by their partner. The definition in the UK is actually much bigger than this and includes lots of different types of abuse, including;

  • psychological and emotional abuse
  • physical and sexual abuse
  • harassment
  • control and coercion 

Both men and women can be victims of domestic abuse and it happens in same-sex relationships too.

Abuse can continue even when the relationship has ended. The term domestic abuse also covers abuse between adult family members, for example abuse by a grown-up child towards a parent.

Image of two mugs with this is not an excuse branding

How can I tell if a person I know is experiencing abuse?

Below are things you may notice that could indicate that the person you know is experiencing domestic abuse:

  • The person has injuries which do not match with the account they give about how they hurt themselves, or they start to wear clothes that cover up more of their body
  • You witness, or hear about, the abuser saying or doing things that belittle the person. For example insulting them, criticising them, making fun of their opinions and beliefs, or undermining the way the person parents their children. 
  • The person withdraws, seeing less of you and of other people they know, often cancelling plans and making excuses about not being able to meet up. When you do see that person, they are sometimes quieter than they used to be, and if the abuser is there too, the person may seem nervous or anxious. 
  • When you see the person alone, they receive lots of text or calls from the abuser asking them what they are doing, where they are, who they are with and when they will be finished. Your friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may seem embarrassed by these interruptions, but may not feel able to stop answering the calls or the texts.
  • The abuser is making lots of rules that the person has to follow, which can include; who they can see, what they can wear, what they can spend money on and how their home needs to be kept. 
  • The person you know seems to give up their own life plans, including their education, their job and their own friendships because the abuser has made it difficult for them to continue doing the things they’d like to. 
  • The person asks you to keep things secret from the abuser, for example who they have seen, plans they have made or things they have bought, because they are scared about what will happen if the abuser finds out. 

Even if the person you know has ended the relationship, it is possible that abuse may continue, especially if the abuser still has the person’s contact details or has access to the person, for example if they have children together.

What can I do to support the person I know?

If you think your friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may be in an abusive relationship, download a help guide for detailed advice on the things you can do which can provide emotional and practical support for that person.

The guide also provides information about the ways the situation may impact on you and what you can do to help support your own wellbeing whilst providing help to a friend, relative, neighbour or colleague.

Advice and support is available for people who think their friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may be in an abusive relationship. 

Guides are also available in selected local GP surgeries, libraries and leisure centres in Bristol.

Reporting domestic abuse

Because many abusive behaviours are crimes, reporting you concerns is important. To do this you can contact Crimestoppers – they are an independent charity who will pass on your concerns to an appropriate organisation without you needing to identify yourself.

Contact Crimestoppers anonymously on the 24/7 freephone number - 0800 555 111.

You don't have to give your name or any of your personal details and calls are never traced. In an emergency, always call the police on 999.

Crimestoppers logo

Organisations who can help

It is not easy supporting someone who is experiencing domestic abuse but you’re not alone. There are a number of organisations you can contact for help and support - for you, and the person you know.

You can ask them for advice about the situation without having to tell them who you are or who the person experiencing domestic abuse is.

National Domestic Violence Helpline

0808 2000 247

National Domestic Violence Helpline website

A 24-hour helpline run by Women’s Aid and Refuge. It is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, and their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf, or for advice themselves.

Men’s Advice Line

0808 801 0327

Men’s Advice Line website

A helpline providing advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner.

Broken Rainbow National Helpline

0300 999 5428 (or Freephone 0800 999 5428)

Broken Rainbow website

A national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) domestic violence helpline providing support to all members of LGBT communities, their families, friends and agencies supporting the LGBT community.

Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid website

A national charity for women and children, working to end domestic abuse.

Respect Phoneline

0808 802 4040

Respect Phoneline website

A helpline offering advice, information and support for men who want to stop being violent and abusive towards their partner.

Victim Support

0808 16 89 111

Victim Support website

A support service for people who have been a victim of any crime (including domestic abuse) or have been affected by a crime committed against someone they know.

Further information

The help guides, support services and more information about the campaign can be found on the this is not an excuse website

To report suspected domestic abuse anonymously, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. You can also contact police by calling 101. In an emergency, always call 999.

For more information about domestic abuse, visit our advice pages. Information about local support services can also be found on the Lighthouse Victim Care website