What is domestic abuse and how can I get support?

If you are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse, or are worried about someone who might be, find out where you can go for advice and help.
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Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence. In most cases, it is by a partner or ex-partner but could also be by a family member or carer. It is very common.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity. However, statistics show most domestic abuse is carried out by men and experienced by women.

Domestic abuse is never the fault of the person who is experiencing it.

Domestic abuse is a crime.

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Domestic abuse and coronavirus

Measures introduced by the Government to tackle coronavirus will mean many people will be feeling unsafe staying in a home with an abusive person, isolated from their support networks.

In response, the Government has said the coronavirus household isolation instructions do not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid has put together advice and information about support available.

Coronavirus safety advice

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include, but is not limited to:

  • coercive control and ‘gaslighting’ (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • financial or economic abuse
  • online or digital abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • emotional and/or psychological abuse
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • harassment or stalking

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Signs of domestic abuse

Has someone close to you:

  • threatened or humiliated you, maybe in front of others
  • damaged your belongings or property
  • controlled what you do
  • controlled how you use, or have access to, money
  • followed or visited you without your permission
  • been putting you down constantly, criticising you
  • blamed their culture, religion or personal problems as an excuse for their behaviour towards you
  • pushed, bullied, slapped, kicked, punched or seriously hurt you
  • forced you to have sex when you don't want to
  • forced you to make decisions you don't agree with (personal, physical, financial, legal or maybe about a family member)
  • threatened you or made you fear for your  safety

Women’s Aid has an online questionnaire, which might help you to recognise if you are in an abusive relationship.

Online questionnaire 

What to do if you're in immediate danger

If you or someone you know are in danger you should phone 999 and ask for the police.

If you are unable to talk on the phone, dial 999, listen to the questions from the operator and respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. Then follow the instructions depending on whether you are calling from a mobile or a landline.

If you call from a mobile

If prompted, press 55 to Make Yourself Heard - this will transfer your call to the police. Pressing 55 only works on mobiles and does not allow police to track your location.

If you call 999 from a landline

If only background noise can be heard and BT operators cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, then you will be connected to a police call handler. If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick up again. When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about your location should be automatically available to the call handlers to help respond.

If you or someone you know are in danger you should phone 999 and ask for the police.

If you are unable to talk on the phone, dial 999, listen to the questions from the operator and respond by coughing or tapping the handset if you can. Then follow the instructions depending on whether you are calling from a mobile or a landline.

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Ask for 'ANI' 

The Government have launched a new code word scheme, where if you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help you can ask for 'ANI' in any participating pharmacy. 

ANI stands for Action Needed Immediately but is pronounced Annie. If a pharmacy has the 'Ask for ANI' logo on display, it means they are ready to help you. The pharmacy will offer you a private space, provide you with a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services. 

Organisations and charities that can support you

Sutton Domestic Abuse One Stop Shop

The Sutton Domestic Abuse One Stop Shop which runs on a Wednesday morning as a drop-in session is now open again. 

Their Independent Domestic Abuse Advisers (IDVAs) are available to offer face-to-face support and guidance to help you at Sutton Baptist Church, 21 Cheam Road, Sutton, SM1 1SN on Wednesday mornings from 9:30am - 11:30am. 

The drop-in sessions will be conducted with COVID-19 safety measures in place, i.e. observing social distancing; ensuring that hand washing facilities are available etc. 

Not Alone in Sutton 

If you or anyone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you are not alone.

020 8092 7569 (Mon-Fri, 9am - 5pm) 


Victim Support 

Victim Support is the national independent charity that offers support to victims of crime. Its services are confidential, free and available to everyone. 

London Victim Assessment and Referral Service

0808 168 9291 (Mon-Fri, 8am - 8pm and Sat, 9am - 5pm)

You can talk to them about domestic abuse and other crimes. This number is for South London including Beddington, Belmont, Carshalton, Cheam, Hackbridge, St Helier, Rosehill, Sutton, Wallington and Worcester Park. 

Refuge - National Domestic Abuse Helpline

Refuge runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which you can call for free, and in confidence, 24 hours a day. Its website provides guidance and support for people affected by domestic abuse, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. It also has a form you can use to book a safe time for a call from them. 

0808 2000 247 

Women's Aid 

Women's Aid works with women and children to end abuse. If you're experiencing domestic abuse you can chat to them using their instant mesaging service, email one of their support workers, speak with other women in their forum of survivors of get help and advice from their survivor's handbook. 

Woman's Trust

Woman's Trust is a specialist mental health charity, providing free counselling and therapy for women who have experienced domestic abuse. 

Sutton Women's Centre

Sutton Women's Centre offers counselling and confidential advice for women that have suffered from domestic abuse. 

020 8881 1991


Man Kind

Man Kind support men suffering from domestic abuse from their current or former partner (including same-sex partners). Their confidential helpline is available weekdays 10am - 4pm. 

0182 3033 4244

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Respect - Men's Advice Line 

Men's Advice Line is a confidential helpline, email and webchat service for male victims of domestic abuse. They offer advice and emotional support to men who experience abuse, and signpost to other vital services that help men keep themselves (and their children) safe. Their helpine is available on Monday and Wednesdays from 9am - 8pm, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am - 5pm. 

0808 8010 327 

Rape Crisis South London 

Rape Crisis South London has four centres that offer help, information and support to women and girls who have experienced sexual violence of any kind, at any time of their lives. 

0808 802 9999 (12:00 - 2:30pm and 7pm - 9:30pm, daily) 


Galop provides Hate Crime, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence support services to LGBTQ+ victims and survivors by telephone, text and WhatsApp. Their helpline is available 10am - 5pm, Monday, Tuesday and Friday and until 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday. 

0800 999 5428


Imkaan is a UK based, Black feminist organisation addressing violence against Black and minority women and girls. Their website has a list of specialist organisations by and for BME women. 

Southall Black Sisters

Southall Black Sisters offer specalist support, advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse. 

Karma Nirvana

Karma Nirvana supports victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage. Their helpline is open 9 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday. 

0800 5999 247

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Latin America Women's Aid runs the only two refuges in Europe by and for Latin American women and children fleeing gender-based violence. They offer advice in Spanish, Portugese and English. 

0753 442 4826 (Spanish and English) - 9.30 am - 5.30 pm

0746 200 3324 (Portuguese and English) - 9.30 am - 1 pm


SignHealth provides domestic abuse service support for deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL).

020 3947 2601 (call) 

07970 350366 (text, WhatsApp or Facetime)


National Stalking Helpline

The National Stalking Helpline provides guidance and information to anybody who is currently or has previously been affected by harassment or stalking. 

0808 802 0300

Action on Elder Abuse

Action on Elder Abuse offers a free helplnie providing emotional support, information and guidance to anyone concerned about potential abuse affecting older people. 

0808 808 8141

National Child Protection Helpline

The National Child Protection Helpline is committed to a service to anyone who needs advice, help or information about concerns of a child's welfare, or to those who want to report concerns they have about a child or young person at risk of abuse. 

0808 800 5000 

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