Abuse in Relationships

Rethinking Your Definitions

Anyone can be a victim of abuse in relationships, regardless of their gender identity.

Abuse in relationships is usually grouped with domestic abuse, which sounds like it only happens at home or with someone you’re living with. While it is often the case that domestic abuse often happens in family or household contexts, this has become a stereotype; we must stop to consider that abuse can happen in any relationship.

It is important to know that even if the abuse does not happen in the typical setting you might expect, your experiences and reactions to the situation are completely valid, despite what an abuser or those around you might lead you to think.

Read through the information below so that you are able to recognise the signs of abuse in a relationship.

PHYSICAL ABUSE - something as seemingly ‘small’ as hitting you after getting drunk at the SU is physical abuse and it shouldn’t be ignored, because it could also lead to much more serious and ongoing abuse. No matter how many times someone hits you, no matter how much it hurts, or whether it leaves a mark, or is followed by apologies, it’s still abuse.

EMOTIONAL ABUSE - A relationship can be abusive even if no physical abuse is involved. Emotional abuse could be your partner using degrading or manipulative language with you, or threatening you with violence, to control or intimidate you. A common example of this type of abuse is gaslighting. This is when your partner will manipulate you into questioning your beliefs and perception of events and reality. It is important to not ignore when you think you are being emotionally abused or dismiss it on the grounds that ‘it’s not that bad,’ as it can still have a severe long-term effect on your mental health.

SEXUAL ABUSE - sexual abuse is any form of sexual act forced upon someone without consent. Consent can be denied through words or be conveyed through body language, such as pushing your partner away, or facial expressions, so sexual partners should regularly check in with one another. In a new relationship, checking in should be done verbally and without pressure. It is important to note that abuse can be perpetrated by any gender towards any gender, and not just male-on-female violence.

If you are unsure whether you are being abused, Women’s Aid has this questionnaire on their website which helps identify if you are in an abusive relationship, as well as offering advice and resources on how to get help, in their Survivors Handbook.

If you think you are being abused by someone, we strongly recommend you get support from the university’s confidential Wellbeing Team, as well as making use of the services below.


  • The National Domestic Abuse helpline, which is run by the charity Refuge, primarily for women, can be called for free at any time of the day or night on 0808 2000 247.
  • For men, the Men’s Advice line is available on 0808 8010 327, Monday to Friday 9am until 8pm, or ManKind is also available Monday to Friday 10am until 4pm.
  • If you identify as LGBTQ+, Galop is available on 0800 999 5428.
  • The Mix offers free support for under 25s, and can be contacted on 0808 808 4994.

ESDAS - East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service- they offer a range of services, such as advice by phone or online, as well as counselling and recovery support groups. They can also signpost you to useful services if they themselves cannot help. To get in touch call 01737 771 350, or text 07860 039 720.

Surrey Solace Centre - offers free help and support for survivors of sexual abuse and is completely confidential. They have a 24/7 helpline and can be contacted on 0300 130 3038.

Your Sanctuary - a refuge service in Northwest surrey, which also offers outreach services such as emotional and practical support, and online services too. You can find them online at yoursanctuary.org.uk or on their helpline at 01483 776822.


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