Questions & Answers

What is domestic violence?

HARV believe that domestic violence includes physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’. Domestic violence  may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently ‘violent’.


My boyfriend has hit me a couple of times recently. What can I do?

There are a number of things you can do. Firstly, you may want HARV or your local police force to report the assault. You may be able to file a report of what has happened with them without them actually taking any action against your boyfriend at this stage. This could then be used as evidence in the future if necessary.

If you have any injuries it would be a good idea to see your GP and tell them about what has happened. This will be treated confidentially. Your GP can make a note of what happened on your medical records, which could be called upon if you require evidence of what has happened in the future, if you decide, for example, you need a non-molestation injunction for protection, or if criminal proceedings are ever brought against him.

You can contact HARV directly to speak to somebody for support and a listening ear, or if you feel you need to get away from home for a while.


My partner says that the abuse is my fault.  Is this true?

It’s extremely common for an abusive person to say this. It’s just another form of abuse, and because he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions. Domestic abuse is never the fault or responsibility of anyone except the abuser. Your partner is an adult and makes a choice about the actions he takes. He could choose to walk away from the situation but instead he chooses to be abusive. Whether it’s physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse, it’s completely unacceptable.


Will my partner change?

It’s possible for abusive people to change their behaviour. However, it’s very difficult to change and so isn’t very common. If your partner has promised to change before and then has resumed his abusive behaviour it’s likely that this pattern will continue to repeat itself.

Unfortunately what usually happens in an abusive relationship is that the abuse increases both in frequency and severity. If your partner is serious about changing his behaviour then he’ll need to seek help either through his GP or through a service specifically for abusive men.

It’s also important to remember that changing this type of behaviour will take time and effort.  If he attends a few sessions and then announces that he’s ‘cured’, this is unlikely to really be the case. The best perpetrator programmes provide support for the partners and ex-partners of perpetrators, and they’ll be able to give you further information and support.

You might want to take a break from the relationship while he seeks help. During the time that he’s dealing with the reasons why he’s abusive, many issues will be brought to the surface. This could increase the intensity of the abuse for a period of time. For this reason, you may want to consider how to ensure your own safety, and that of any children you may have, during this period.

If your partner is still in any way blaming you for the abuse, then it’s clear that he hasn’t accepted full responsibility for what has happened, and while he’s still saying this, his behaviour is unlikely to change.


How can I help my partner to stop hurting me?

Your partner is the only person who is responsible for the abuse. Consequently he’s the only person who can change what’s happening. It’s only natural to want to help someone that you are in an intimate relationship with and it can be difficult to realise that this isn’t really possible. If in some way, he blames the abuse on your actions then this shows that he’s not accepting responsibility for his behaviour. It’s likely that if you change aspects about yourself or your behaviour in order to appease him, he will eventually find some other ‘reason’ to be abusive towards you.

If your partner wants to change his behaviour, then he’ll need to seek help either through his GP or through a service specifically for abusive men.

You can take positive action yourself – for example, by removing yourself from the situation, reporting his abuse to the police so that he’s held accountable, or using legal means to prevent him from being able to hurt or harass you.


It doesn’t happen all the time and when he isn’t violent he’s really nice to me.  Is this really abuse?

It’s a misconception that an abusive relationship is violent all the time. If a partner was violent and abusive all the time and from the outset of a relationship, you’d be unlikely to get into a relationship with him – or to stay with him very long if you had. This is what makes it so difficult for women to walk away from an abusive relationship. Often a woman doesn’t want the relationship to end, she just wants the violence to stop. However, unless he’s addressing the reasons for his violence towards you, remember that it’s likely to happen again.  Unfortunately what usually happens is that the abuse increases both in frequency and severity over time. It might help to talk to someone who help you look at your options.


My husband has never hit me – but often shouts at me and calls me awful names. Is this abuse?

Yes, what you’re describing is domestic abuse. Emotional and verbal abuse are both classed as domestic violence. This behaviour is not acceptable and you don’t have to put up with it.


My partner always shouts at me and accuses me of ‘being up to something’. Things got so bad a couple of weeks ago that he started to harm himself in front of me. I think he did this to frighten me and it’s worked but what can I do now to help him?

Unfortunately the behaviour that your partner is displaying isn’t uncommon amongst abusive men. You’re right in thinking that he wanted to frighten you. What he’s doing is manipulative and also incredibly emotionally abusive as he’s trying to make you feel in some way responsible for his self harm. Remember that you are in no way responsible for any of his actions.

There are various options for your partner if he wants to seek help for his behaviour.  However, he will have to seek this help for himself and nobody can make him do this. Only if he accepts full responsibility for his actions and admits that he needs help will any agency be able to offer him assistance. If he does this he could seek help from a number of organisations including HARV.


What’s the best way to gather evidence about emotional abuse?

Firstly, we would suggest that you see your GP and tell them about how you’re feeling. If the GP keeps notes of this visit and or offers a referral to counselling etc, this may be something you can use as evidence. If you call HARV and give us express permission to make a record of the call, containing any notes on how you’ve been affected by your partner’s behaviour, this may be called upon as evidence.

It may be useful for you to start keeping a record of the emotional abuse that you’re experiencing. Note down the time and date, what was said, any threats he makes and if anyone else was present at the time. Keep any abusive text messages, emails or voicemail messages, as this information will really help when you come to discuss your situation with a solicitor.

If other people have witnessed any of the emotional abuse then their testimony could also be used.


My husband is very possessive. He constantly phones and emails me when I’m out of the house. He doesn’t like me seeing my friends or family and he checks my text messages when he can. He says it’s because he cares. Is this normal for a relationship?

This possessive behaviour isn’t normal in a loving relationship. It’s a form of controlling behaviour and is all part of the pattern of an abusive relationship. It sounds as if there is a real danger of you becoming isolated if he continues to prevent you from seeing your friends and family. If a person really loves and cares for you they would want you to be happy and to have lots of supportive friends and family around you.


My last three relationships have been abusive – why do I always get involved with abusive men?

It’s important to remember that the abuse is in no way your fault or responsibility. Often the abuse doesn’t become apparent until quite far into the relationship, so a woman would not recognise that the man was going to turn out to be abusive. Quite often an abusive relationship can be very intense at first and what may actually be possessive and controlling behaviour could be misconstrued as passion and love. If a woman has recently come out of an abusive relationship, this flattery and intense attention could be very attractive and the thought of someone ‘looking after’ you could be extremely appealing. It’s only further down the line that the reality of the relationship becomes evident.

Whilst not wanting to build up too many emotional barriers around yourself, it might be worth having a think about potential warning signs in a new relationship. Examples might include things moving very quickly early on, him wanting you to spend all of his time with you, discouraging you from going out with friends or seeing family, him being jealous and possessive and him wanting to read your text messages or emails. Whilst of course these things don’t automatically make him an abuser, they are things that could alert you to be a little more on your guard.


My abusive boyfriend says he will kill himself if I leave him. What should I do?

This is an extremely common threat for an abusive person to make. It’s incredibly manipulative and emotionally abusive, and is totally unacceptable. He is using emotional threats and abuse in order to control your behaviour. He thinks that by saying this he can prevent you from doing anything about the abusive relationship that you’re in.

The reality is that this is usually an empty threat. Of course this could not be guaranteed, but it’s important to remember that he is the only person that is responsible for his actions. If he were to harm himself in any way you wouldn’t be in any way responsible for that.


My partner won’t let me see my family or friends, and he monitors my phone calls. How can I get him to change?

Recognising that this behaviour is neither normal nor acceptable is a positive step forward.  He’s being incredible emotionally abusive towards you and is attempting to control your behaviour. However, he is the only person that can decide to change his behaviour. It’s likely that at the moment he doesn’t recognise his actions as being wrong in any way. Unless he admits that he has a problem and then seeks help to address it, it is unlikely that this will change. In fact what generally happens is that this pattern of abusive behaviour increases in frequency and severity over time.


I’m being forced to keep everything meticulously clean. My partner goes mental if I put a foot wrong. He’s just being over-excessive, but it’s like walking on egg shells. What should I do to get out of the spiral we’re in?

Your partner is making completely unreasonable demands of you. The situation that you describe sounds like part of a pattern of abusive behaviour that would be classed as domestic violence. It sounds as if he’s very controlling of you and reacts unreasonably when you do something that he doesn’t like. The truth is that even if you adapt your behaviour to cater for his moods, it’s likely he’ll find something else as a reason to be abusive towards you. Unless he acknowledges that his behaviour is unacceptable and takes steps to do something about it, the situation is unlikely to change. Perhaps you could have a think about what you are getting out of this relationship and whether it’s time to assess whether or not you have a future together.


My husband and I get into fights but then he’s so nice and apologetic afterwards, and I always forgive him. Is this ok to do?

This really depends on how the relationship makes you feel. What are the ‘fights’ like? Is he physically abusive towards you? Does he shout at you, put you down and call you names?  What is the rest of the relationship like? Is he quite possessive and controlling of you?

Another thing to think about is that even though he says sorry, does it always happen again? This kind of inconsistent behaviour can be very confusing as it’s difficult to know where you stand. If he really is sorry then it would follow that he should want to do something to address his actions. If he takes full responsibility for his abusive behaviour then it’s up to him to take steps to change.

Whether you want to continue with this relationship has to be your decision. Perhaps you could think about whether or not you’re afraid of your husband. Are the fights becoming more frequent or more extreme? Are you finding yourself adapting your behaviour in order to pacify him? These could all signal that the abuse is getting worse and that you may be in a dangerous situation.


My husband puts me down and calls me names all of the time, he says I’m a bad mother and that I’m going mad. I’m starting to believe him and I don’t think I can cope any more.  What should I do?

What you’re describing is emotional abuse. This verbal abuse and mental torture is classed as domestic violence and he shouldn’t be allowed to treat you this way. You’re not going mad. This is a very common thing for an abusive person to say. He’s trying to undermine your self-esteem and make you feel that you’re reliant on him. Remember that you are not in any way responsible for what’s happening. He is abusing you and you don’t have to accept it. You would probably feel a lot more able to cope with life if he wasn’t constantly putting you down.

It’s completely normal to feel the way that you’re feeling when you’ve been experiencing this level of consistent emotional abuse. You may want to consider visiting your GP to talk about how you’ve been feeling. If you tell them the situation, they can make notes on your medical record and this could then be used as evidence should you need it in the future. If you want to end the relationship, you could think about taking out an injunction against him to make him leave the house and stay away from you.

Alternatively you could seek emergency accommodation to get yourself and your children out of this abusive situation.

If you’re not ready to leave the relationship then you could still contact HARV to get emotional support whilst the relationship continues


After recently marrying I’ve moved in with my husband’s family. My mother-in-law is  psychologically abusive towards me. She calls me names, insults my family and has now blackmailed me into wearing traditional Asian clothes. I don’t want to live like this – what should I do?

The way that your mother-in-law is treating you is completely unacceptable. You have the right to live your life the way you want. Making you wear clothes you don’t feel comfortable in and insulting you is emotionally abusive.

If your husband isn’t supportive of you, you may want to consider how you feel about the relationship if it means that the abuse from your mother-in-law is going to continue. Whether you decide to leave or continue in the relationship, you can access support from HARV.

HARV have a Urdu and Punjabi speaking IDVA worker.


My brother in law bullies me and has harassed, abused and attempted to attack me while I was seven months pregnant. I constantly feel under threat because of his bullying.  I want to find out what help is available to me and how?

You can be protected by both criminal and civil law. He shouldn’t be able to harass you in this way, and any attempted physical attack is against the law. If he has ever sent you any abusive messages it would be useful to keep them as they could be used as evidence. If you’ve ever spoken to a doctor or health visitor about the abuse this could also be used as evidence. It’s helpful to gather as much evidence as possible so that you can start to build a picture of what’s happening.

Under the criminal law, he could be prosecuted for offences involving fear of violence and criminal harassment. You don’t have to wait for an actual physical attack to take place in order to take action against him. You could contact the police and tell them what’s happening and they should take it very seriously. If you contact the police, ask to speak to someone from the domestic violence unit. These specially trained officers are used to dealing with similar cases.

For protection under the civil law, you could apply for a non-molestation order (an injunction) to prevent him from continuing this harassment. You’ll need expert legal advice to arrange this. Breach of a non-molestation injunction is a criminal offence. Rights of Women publish useful resources which could help you in terms of understanding your rights and the law.

If you feel in danger in your home you may want to think about seeking emergency accommodation.


My adult brother is harassing me. He’s been threatening to kill me for 20 years now. How can I make him stop?

This has been happening for a very long time now and unfortunately, if he’s not taking action to address his behaviour, it’s unlikely to stop. Making threats to kill is an arrestable offence so you could contact the police about it. It’s understandable that this is a big decision and it can be especially difficult when it’s a family member that you’re reporting. Try to remember that any trouble he gets into will be a result of his actions not yours. You’re not in any way responsible for what’s happening, and so you wouldn’t be responsible for any consequences that happen as a result of his threats and intimidation.

You could also apply for a non-molestation order (an injunction) to prevent him from continuing this harassment.  You’ll need to seek expert legal advice to arrange this. Breach of a non-molestation injunction is a criminal offence.

If you feel in danger in your home you could move into emergency accommodation.


My son is being very abusive towards myself and my other children – what can I do?

To some extent, this depends on the age of your son. If he’s under 16, you may want to try and find help – perhaps from Social Services or your GP. Social Services have a duty to help you protect your other children from harm and they may be at risk while he’s in the home. It’s the Social Services’ responsibility to carry out a needs assessment under the Children Act  if he is under 18. If you’ve already gone to Social Services and they have said they’re unable to help, make a note of the individuals’ names that dealt with your case and, if possible, get it in writing.

Parental responsibility applies only up to the age of 16, so if he’s above that age, legally you can evict him from your property (i.e. the next time he leaves the property, don’t let him back in, and change the locks), without your getting punished for it. You can also get an injunction to prevent further harassment or to exclude him from your home. It will help your case if you have some suggestions as to where else he can go.

You could also contact the children and young peoples team here at HARV. We have specialist support workers that can help your son work through some of his learnt behaviours.


I’m 20 years old and I live at home with my parents.  They won’t allow me any freedom at all.  I’m not allowed out to see friends and they threaten me all the time.  My father has even hit me on a couple of occasions.  I can’t live like this any more.  What can I do?

The way that you’re being treated at home is completely unacceptable. You’re an adult and should be allowed the freedom to live your life the way you want. The threats and the violence are against the law and so you do have the option of involving the police. It’s understandable that when the abusers are your family members this can be exceptionally hard and so you may not wish to involve any authorities. This is entirely your decision.

HARV can help you to get out of this situation if you feel that it is time for you to leave. You could access refuge accommodation away from your family in a place where you would be safe from harm.


I’m an 18 year old Asian woman and my father has recently found out that I’ve been in a relationship with a man from outside our culture.  I’m fearful for my life as he says I’ve bought shame upon the family.  What can I do?

As you’re in fear for your life it’s important for you to think carefully about the best thing to do for your safety. You can access refuge accommodation in a place where your father won’t be able to find you. It’s important that you go to an area where your family doesn’t have connections so that it would be very difficult for him to locate you.

It’s understandable that when the abusers are your family members this can be exceptionally hard and so you may not wish to involve the police or any other authorities. This is entirely your decision.

Whether or not you decide upon any of these courses of action, HARV  can offer you emotional support and can perhaps help you think through what you want to do.