Megan Taylor and Kristina Evans

This article will help to distinguish between some of the common misconceptions regarding domestic violence, and what are some genuine tell-tale signs everyone should try to spot in our loved one’s relationships and our own.

Domestic violence or domestic abuse in its very nature occurs behind closed doors. Much like our mental health, it is not something we can always read or recognise on the surface of someone’s behavior. The victims of this crime often suffer a sense of shame and undermine the seriousness of how they are being wrongly treated, and this is epitomised in how domestic abuse has only been recognised as a prosecutable crime for the past fifty years, despite its potentially life threatening effects on the victim. Given the often secretive nature of domestic abuse, the whole conversation around domestic abuse remains as a very private matter, and a damaging side-effect of this is that many myths and misconceptions are perpetuated without being challenged.

Misconceptions about domestic abuse

If it was that bad, you’d leave

Like many things, to leave a partner or a family home is a lot easier said than done. Often the advice family and friends give victims of domestic violence is to just leave. However, ‘just leaving’ does not account for the emotional manipulation victims are subject to and often, the financial consequences of leaving. Children who are victims of parental abuse are usually prevented from just leaving due to their inability to fund a home for themselves, and the same can go in romantic relationships where one partner has prevented their partner’s financial independence. Even if this is not the case, victims of domestic abuse can still have loving feelings towards their partners or family, every situation is different and tied up with emotion, responsibilities and guilt, often making it an unthinkable challenge to leave.

Domestic abuse is usually just a momentary loss of control

Domestic violence and control go hand in hand. Sometimes, we may try to diminish the severity of someone’s actions by simply blaming it on their ‘fiery temper,’ calling it a ‘one off’ and casting it to the back of our minds (until it happens again). This is a harmful way to talk about domestic abuse as every violent action or manipulative utterance should not be excused but recognised in its severity. It is rare that the extent of a case of domestic abuse is revealed in public, and this is unfortunately a tell tale sign that abuse tends not to be a “loss of control,” but a deliberate and calculated act, not the fault of the victim who has caused the abuser to “lash out” in a supposed loss of control.

It’s only domestic abuse if physical violence is involved

Physical violence is a common characteristic of domestic abuse, but it nearly always goes hand in hand with other forms of abuse including emotional, sexual, financial and psychological abuse.

Even the most subtle abuse can be spotted when the perpetrator is violent; bruised bodies and black eyes easily reveal the abuse which both parties may try to keep behind closed doors. However, emotional abuse is much more insidious and subtle, it can appear as threats, humiliation, gaslighting, belittling jokes at one partner’s expense, invasions of their private spheres and then the denial of all these things. Victims of emotional abuse often don’t realise they are victims of abuse until other forms of abuse occur. Sexual coercion and financial manipulation are also to be taken extremely seriously as they are means of control which invade personal territories. Choice, whatever it comes down to, must be respected in relationships or it can leave victims suffering mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and even PTSD when their most basic rights are violated by someone they trust.

Men can’t be victims of abuse

Anyone can be a victim. Often when we discuss domestic abuse the first image that comes to mind is an abusive man and a victimised woman. However, this dynamic is an unfair assumption that not only plays into the rigid idea of the archetypal couple, but also ignores the many other areas in which domestic abuse occurs. Abuse can occur towards parents, grandparents, children, siblings, all and any relationships within the household, whether they are blood relatives or not. In fact the term domestic abuse encompasses any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound (source: United Nations) any household member, meaning that men just as much as women can be wrongfully abused.

Those who abuse have mental health issues

This statement is unfounded as there is no evidence to support the claim. Under no circumstances should excuses be made for abuse. Each act of abuse is a conscious choice, irrespective of the mental well being of the abuser. The majority of mental health sufferers will never be abusive, yet according to the Mental Health Foundation, those who suffer from domestic violence are far more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and PTSD. Moreover, it has been proven that in many cases exposure to domestic violence has profound repercussions on the mental health of developing children (source: Mental Health Foundation).

Domestic abuse isn’t that common

It is a prevalent issue in society yet the nature of the crime often means that it remains concealed. Abusers likely don’t make themselves known in public and many victims are too afraid or ashamed to speak up and report it to the authorities.

The police recorded 599,549 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2018, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. It is estimated that, from March 2017 to March 2018 in England and Wales, 2.0 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse (1.3 million women, 695,000 men). These numbers may seem too many to be possible, especially when we remember that domestic abuse occurs between people who are supposed to love and care for each other, but behaviour in which one person’s rights are violated by another can be seen everywhere. So, if it can happen in the streets, be shown on videos or the TV, it can happen behind closed doors to anyone.

(source: Office for National Statistics)


Sometimes, it is not easy to recognise when things aren’t quite right. The last people we would expect to harm us are our families, we might forgive a loved one’s ‘bad temper,’ because that's just the way they are, or we might make exceptions because abusers might also be suffering from mental health problems. However, abuse is not acceptable under any circumstances.

It is easy to hold misconceptions about domestic abuse even when you've experienced it, never mind when you haven’t. Therefore, within your families, friendship groups or even around colleagues, try and look for little indications of how people are doing. Victims of abuse might not often disclose what is going on in their relationships, but everyone can easily ask someone else if they have had a good weekend, or if they are feeling okay if they look low.

It is time to speak up against domestic abuse. If you see it happening to someone in your household, friendship group or in your general vicinity, speak to them and let them know it is not right to be treated that way, even when they have rationalised it is okay. If everyone works together to change how domestic abuse is recognised and treated, we will be on our way to making a real change to how people live their lives.

If you suspect that you are being abused please seek help, you are not alone and there are organisations and people out there who want to help you.

If you need support:

In the case of an emergency, call 999 immediately


Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline (for women) - 0808 2000 247 (24 hours)

Men's Advice Line (for men) - 0808 8010 327 (Monday and Wednesday, 9am to 8pm, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9am to 5pm)

ManKind (for men) - 0182 3334 244 (Weekdays, 10am to 4pm)

Galop (for LGBT+) - 0800 999 5428

Childline (for under 19’s) - 0800 1111


Talk to a doctor, health visitor or midwife.

Download Bright Sky for free from the app store, but only if you are certain that your phone isn’t being monitored and that it is safe to do so.

If you’re worried that you are abusive, contact the Respect Helpline on 0808 802 4040.

Ask for ANI or for a Safe Space at your local pharmacy, Boots, Morrisons, Superdrug and Well pharmacies, or TSB bank. Once inside, specialist domestic abuse support information will be available for you to discreetly access or you can receive help contacting the police on 999.