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Domestic abuse FAQs

There are many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship, and we should never blame them or make them feel responsible for not being able to leave.  If we can understand why people stay, then we are more likely to be able to help and support them to leave safely when the time is right. Some of the reasons people stay might be:

  • Fear - The fear that women in particular feel about leaving an abusive relationship is very real. Many of the women who are killed by their partner or ex- partner die within the first month of leaving the relationship.  The risk remains high for the first year.
  • Threats - Abusers also use threats to harm themselves, relatives, children or pets to control their partner, so people stay in order to protect others.
  • Shame or guilt - Abusers will often tell their victim that the abuse is their fault and, if they would just stop doing x, the abuse would stop.  As abusers slowly erode the confidence of their victim, the person starts to believe that they are at fault and will change their own behaviour as a result. Some people worry that no-one will believe them if they disclose the abuse, as perpetrators are often charming to the outside world.  Some people also fear the reaction of their family or community if they were to leave, for example their culture or faith may frown upon women who leave a marriage.
  • Lack of confidence and low self- esteem - Being constantly told that you are worthless will eventually erode anyone’s confidence.  people subjected to domestic abuse and violence live in constant fear and suffer trauma on a daily basis, which can result in them feeling confused, worthless and unable to make decisions.
  • Practical reasons - There are many practical reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship, for example a lack of money or insecure immigration status.  Practical reasons may also include not wanting to leave pets behind.
  • Isolation - Abusers often use isolation as a way of controlling their partner.  By cutting them off from their support network and the outside world, there is less opportunity for the victim to recognise what is happening to them is wrong, or to seek help.  Perpetrators of abuse often try to make their partner totally reliable on them, to disempower them completely.
  • Hope - Sometimes the abusive person might promise to change and that if circumstances change the abusive will stop. (Link to cycle of abuse)
  • Love - The person may love their abuser, which can be very confusing for them.
  • Children - Some people may feel it is best for the children to stay in a stable home with both parents and may not understand that children are affected by the abuse, even if they don’t see it. The abusive partner may also have threatened to take or harm the children.

Domestic abuse occurs when one adult uses threatening, violent or abusive behaviour to control another person with whom they are having or have had a relationship with. This could be a partner, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend or a family member. The abuse could be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional and is often a combination of these.

It is not only couples who experience abuse. Sometimes, family members are abusive to each other e.g. a son may hit his mother or parents may try to force their daughter into an unwanted marriage.

Abuse can start in quite subtle ways. For instance your partner may start to text you often, question your friendships or say cruel things about the way you behave or look. Abuse often becomes worse over time and can progress to constant harassment, belittling and physical violence. For more information about healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships please follow this link.

Because domestic abuse happens behind closed doors, many people think that it is only happening to them. This is not true - domestic abuse can happen to anyone - it is not related to where you live, your background or ethnicity.

The effects of domestic abuse vary from person to person and depend on each individual’s experience. The effects can become worse over time and they can take a long time to recover from.

Emotional: The most common feature of living in an abusive relationship is suffering emotional or psychological abuse. The effects of this are extremely harmful.

Emotional abuse includes name calling, being constantly put down, having someone control what you do or what you wear, being isolated from friends and family, making you feel you are responsible for the abuse, criticising parenting, threatening family or friends, or making unreasonable demands.

Experiencing some or all of these things will have an effect on self-esteem and confidence levels, cause depression and feelings of worthlessness and can lead to eating disorders or psychosomatic illnesses.

Physical: Some people who are living in abusive relationships will never or rarely be victims of physical violence and some will experience it regularly. Many people who experience physical violence live with painful injuries that go undiagnosed and sometimes they are prevented from seeking medical help. Research also shows that physical violence can escalate in a relationship. In extreme cases physical violence can lead to murder - two women a week are killed by a current or ex partner.

It is important to remember that physical violence is only one indicator of domestic abuse and may not be the main feature of the abusive relationship.

Sexual: For many people living in a violent relationship, sexual abuse occurs on an occasional or regular basis. This can include rape, putting pressure on you to take part in things you don’t feel comfortable with and/or forcing you to have sex with other people. This can increase the chances of you contracting a sexually transmitted illness, cause physical injury and has serious emotional effects.

Other effects of living with domestic abuse can include suffering financial hardship, losing employment and potential homelessness.

You can watch a video about the effects of domestic abuse here.

We can offer a range of support based on your own needs. This can range from a one off advice call to ongoing support over a number of years. We offer support on a one to one basis and also run a range of groups.

As well as offering support to people who are experiencing domestic abuse we can also offer advice to victims of so-called ‘honour violence’ and stalking.

For a full list of our services please visit our services pages.

‘Honour based violence’ (HBV) are a collection of practices which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. This can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code. For instance, family members may want their daughter or son to marry a particular person. If they refuse, the family may insist, become violent towards their daughter or son and in some cases, organise a marriage abroad and force their child to marry.

We are able to support victims or potential victims of HBV in the same ways that we support victims of domestic abuse.

Abusive people are often more emotionally abusive than physically abusive and some victims of abuse never or rarely experience physical violence. Emotional abuse can include insults, controlling behaviour, threats - sometimes to harm you and sometimes to harm themselves, tantrums and unpredictable behaviour. These forms of abuse can have long-lasting impacts on adults and children but they can sometimes be hard to pin down as abusive.

IDAS believes that everyone has the right to have an equal and fulfilling relationship and that any close relationship should be based on mutual trust and respect.

If you have concerns about your relationship please talk this through with one of our specialist workers on our helpline.

Every relationship is different and this is true of abusive relationships. However, as well as actual physical violence there are some common signs that your relationship is unequal or abusive. These include:

  • Your partner being jealous or over possessive,
  • You feeling nervous about how your partner might react of you tell them something difficult,
  • Your partner blaming you for when they get angry,
  • You being frightened to see certain friends of family members because of your partners views of them,
  • Your partner embarrassing you in front of family or friends,
  • You feeling out of control,
  • Your partner never praising you for your achievements,
  • Feeling that you can’t do anything right most of the time,
  • Your partner keeping you away from friends and family.

You can watch a video about the signs of domestic abuse here.

The person you fell in love with probably wasn't abusive to you when you first fell in love with them. In fact, abusive partners often initially appear completely the opposite being charming, kind, attentive and eager to commit. As a result of this, normally people will see the non-abusive side of their partner as 'the real them' and the abusive side as not really them and something that may well have been caused by some kind of life experience. Sadly, however, the abusive part of them is as much a part of the 'real' them as the non-abusive part and sometimes more so. It can be that they are kind or do something nice as a means to an end rather than kindness for its own sake. Part of being able to deal with domestic abuse involves starting to accept that you can't have one part of this person without the other, unless they accept responsibility for their actions and get help through things such as perpetrator programmes to address their issues.

People can change their behaviour but they must want to change. Many perpetrators promise to get help - particularly after they have been physically violent - but often they forget this promise after a few weeks.

There are ‘perpetrators programmes’ available and there is also a local support scheme called Making Safe. The programmes are generally 6 - 9 months long and they work with abusive people to help them change. The Making Safe scheme provides housing and one to one support to perpetrators with the aim of helping them change.

There is also a national helpline available for people who are concerned about their own behaviour and this is available on freephone 0808 802 4040. The line is open Monday - Friday, 9am-5pm.

No is the short answer to this. It is quite common for abusive people to blame the victim as a way of avoiding taking responsibility for their actions. It is normal for people in relationships to become irritated at times and to argue. It is not normal for one person to control, assault, manipulate and / or bully another and you are not to blame for this happening.

It is normal for couples to argue as long as no-one is hurt, threatened or assaulted as a result of this. It is also normal to want to defend yourself if someone is attacking you. However, this hugely increases the risk of serious injury to both you and your partner and should be avoided. Your actions might also be considered illegal by the police. Both of you can access the help you need to change this behaviour so please consider calling our helpline as the first step.

Domestic abuse centres around the use of power to control of one individual by another. If there is still a fundamental imbalance in the relationship (e.g. it's still largely on their terms, even though other forms of abuse may have stopped) then it is likely the abuse will continue. If they are not accepting that they are responsible for their own actions and actively addressing them, then it is likely they have not changed. We can help you look at your situation and understand the abuse within it and whether there are signs that they have changed or are likely to continue being abusive.

They may have, but it is unlikely. Statistically this is the highest risk time in terms of abuse (when the relationship is about to end or has ended).

Part of the reason for this, is that they have lost control of you and the situation. A way of attempting to regain control can be by being really nice.

It is very common for people, where being nice is not effective, to become very nasty as a different way of trying to get control. People can swing between nice and nasty in this way in a matter of minutes, hours, days or weeks, depending on the individual. Being nice can be another way of being abusive and trying to make you do what they want.

Most of us are optimistic about relationships; we want them to work because we have invested time, love and energy in them working. An abusive relationship is no different. What is different is that when you've been abused, your self-esteem and sense of self-worth can be seriously affected. This can leave you with small amounts of confidence to cope alone as well fears about what will happen if you are alone. It can also make you doubt whether you are worthy of happiness to a point that the relationship you know, even though it is abusive, feels comfortingly familiar.

All of these things can contribute to you returning. It is important to understand what motivates you to return and to give yourself time out of the relationship to work out what you really want with your life.

Occasionally people can change but it can be very hard to forgive someone that you loved and trusted who has abused that trust. Just because someone has stopped being abusive, doesn't mean you have to stay with them. It's OK to realise that their behaviour has done too much damage to the relationship and that you can't move past it enough to be able to build a future together.

Jealousy is for the partner you wanted them to be and also part of grieving for the relationship. It is normal and will subside in time.

We support anyone who has had or is still in an abusive relationship.  We won’t ever tell you what to do or make choices for you.  If you want to stay with your partner we can still offer you support.

There is a law called ‘Claire’s Law’ that means you can request for the police to share details of your partner’s history with you if he’s been convicted of offences. The police will need good reasons before they share any info they have with you.

If you suspect that your new partner is abusive always ask yourself why you are concerned and talk over these concerns with one of our specialist workers.

There are many options. Some people stay with family members or friends until they can sort out alternative accommodation or get their partner removed from the property they’ve left. The local authority also has a duty to offer accommodation to anyone who is escaping violence or the threat of violence.

If you need additional support and a high level of security you could also consider moving to a refuge temporarily.

Many abusive people make this threat as a way of getting their partner to stay in the relationship. It isn’t true.

What happens in the longer term with the children will depend on factors such as whether your partner is directly abusive to them, whether the children want to see their father / mother if you leave and whether contact can be arranged safely. We can offer expert advice on child contact and residency issues.

Many abusive people make this threat as a way of getting their partner to stay in the relationship. It isn’t true.

If social services do become involved with your family their main aim is to ensure that the children are safe and being looked after to a reasonable standard. If they have concerns about your relationship with your children they will talk these through with you and try to ensure that you have the help and support you need. It is only in extreme cases that children are taken into care.

If you ring our helpline for advice you do not have to tell us your partner’s name. However, if you need to come into a refuge we will ask you for your partner’s details – including his name and a description. This is so that we can keep you and other residents safe.

We have very strict confidentiality guidelines which are there to keep you and your children safe. If we need to share information with other agencies we would talk to you about this first. The only time we would breach your confidentiality without talking to you is if we had extreme concerns about yours or someone else’s safety.

This will depend to some extent on your circumstances and on how quickly we can arrange an appointment with you. We try to see everyone within a few days of them contacting us and can offer immediate safety advice and support over our helpline.

Everyone is different and we all take different lengths of time to recover from the negative things we experience. It can be a lengthy process to ‘recover’ from abuse but many people tell us that they feel stronger, freer and happier a year or two after leaving an abusive relationship. Please read our survivors stories to get a view of how support can help people through domestic abuse.

Each case is dealt with differently and largely depends on what has happened. When you report to the police, they should assess the situation and ensure the safety of you and your children. This might mean arresting and taking the perpetrator into custody. Following this, the police compile a report on what has happened – this will include any statements you make – and present this to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will advise on whether the perpetrator is charged, offered a caution or released.

If you do need to go to court we will help you through this. We employ fully trained Independent Domestic Violence Advisors who can guide you through the whole process and ensure that you are kept up to date with what is happening. You can watch a video explaining how the IDVA can help you through the court process here.

We would never report something to the police without your consent unless we had extreme concerns for your safety or the safety of your children.

MARAC stands for Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference.  It is a meeting attended by agencies to discuss cases of domestic violence that professionals consider to be ‘high risk’.  The purpose of the MARAC is so that all the agencies involved in helping victims can agree how best to offer protection - this could include fitting alarms, offering alternative accommodation or referring to IDAS for support.  Agencies that attend MARACs include the police, housing, IDAS and health.

We have services across York and North Yorkshire but we also have links and can refer to other services across the UK.

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