Anyone of any age, ethnicity, sexuality or social background can be affected by an abusive relationship, whether as a victim of abuse or as an abuser. Domestic abuse – which is also called domestic violence – happens not just in couples but also between family members. And according to the charity LWA (Living Without Abuse), it will affect one in four women and one in six men during their lifetime (currently, an estimated two million adults under the age of 60 experience some form of domestic abuse every year in England and Wales).

Abuse – which comes in many different forms – is never the fault of the person it’s directed at. It’s never healthy or acceptable, even if you think the person abusing you is doing it because they love you. Indeed physical and emotional violence, anger and possessiveness are never behaviours associated with loving relationships. Yet many who are affected try to change how they themselves behave to try and stop their partner or family member abusing them. Some also find excuses for their abuser’s behaviour, such as they drink too much alcohol or use drugs, or they say their abuser didn’t really mean it.

But the truth is that abuse is always something someone chooses to do. It’s never the choice of the person being abused.

You may find abuse within your relationship difficult to talk about – you may even struggle to admit you have a problem in the first place. But if you’re in a situation where someone is abusing you in any way, remember it’s not your fault. It is, however, important to find out what help and support is available to you, as abusive relationships can lead to poor physical and emotional health and even serious injuries and death.

This helpsheet aims to explain what domestic abuse is, how to recognise if you’re having a problem and how to remove yourself from an abusive situation.