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Frequently asked questions: The signs of relationship abuse and how to help


Violence against women is a human rights violation that takes place every single day around the world. Globally, one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. While domestic violence and abuse are sometimes hidden, if we know the signs of an abusive relationship, we may be able to recognize it better and seek or offer help.

What are some common signs of abuse?

  • Your partner keeps track of everything you do. They monitor where you are and whom you are with at all times. They prevent or discourage you from seeing friends, family, or going to work or school.
  • You partner insists that you reply right away to their texts, emails, and calls, and demands to know your passwords to social media sites, email, and other accounts.
  • An abusive partner may act jealous, including constantly accusing you of cheating. They may attempt to control how you spend money and your use of medications or birth control. They may make everyday decisions for you, such as what you wear or eat.
  • They may be demeaning. They may put you down by insulting your appearance, intelligence, or interests. They may try to humiliate you in front of others and attempt to destroy your property or things that you care about.
  • An abusive partner may act angry or have a quick or unpredictable temper, so you never know what might cause a problem. They may blame you for their violent outbursts and physically harm or threaten harm to you, themselves, and members of your household, including children or pets.
  • They may hurt you physically, such as hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting. They may use, or threaten to use, a weapon against you.
  • They may be sexually abusive, including rape or other forced sexual activity. They may incorrectly assume that consent for a sex act in the past means that you must participate in the same acts in the future. They may also incorrectly assume that consent for one activity means consent for increased levels of intimacy. For example, an abuser may assume that a kiss should lead to sex every time.
  • An abusive partner may threaten to turn you in to authorities for illegal activity if you report the abuse, or if you resist.

You can talk with someone who has been trained to help by calling a local helpline.

What are some safety tips if I am experiencing abuse?

If you think you are being abused, seek help. These tips provide guidance on how to find safety and support.

  • Consider sharing your concerns with a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor. Work with them to develop a plan for when you need help. This plan may include, for instance, creating a secret code or multiple code words, sentences, or emojis that would help you communicate more safely with them.
  • Develop an escape strategy, such as saying you need to go to the pharmacy or grocery store and, once there, asking to use the phone to call for help. Think through several plausible reasons for leaving home at different times of the day or night in case you need to escape.
  • If possible, keep a telephone always charged and accessible and know which numbers to call for help: a friend, a family member, or the police. If your life is in danger, call the police if you believe it is safe to do so.
  • Try to identify patterns in your partner’s use and level of violence. This can help you to predict when abuse may escalate.

You can talk with someone who has been trained to help by calling a local helpline.

What can I do to help someone I know who is experiencing abuse?

If you are concerned about a friend who may be experiencing domestic violence or abuse or feels unsafe around someone, review these tips on how to help them find safety and support.

  • If you are worried about a friend’s safety, stay in touch and be creative. Avoid making the abuser suspicious so that communication lines can stay open. If you both have children, for example, you can suggest joint calls between both yourselves and the kids. You can create secret code words to use in conversations that can help you communicate more safely.
  • Ask your friend how they prefer to connect. It is important to establish a safe communication channel since they will be, in many instances, physically close to the abuser who might be monitoring conversations. Ask them if they prefer an instant message or text over a call, and if there is a specific platform or app they prefer to use.
  • Be supportive and believe them. Reassure them that they are not alone and that help and support are available. Recognize that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. If they want to talk, listen carefully and be empathetic.
  • Help them think through how to stay safe during COVID-19. Help your friend create a plan for lockdown situations. Are there other friends or family they could stay with during this time? Consider helping them to reach out to these people to make a plan.
  • Respect their right to consent. Unless you strongly believe that your friend’s life is in danger, avoid taking actions without their consent. They know the safety risks best, and, therefore, they should be driving any decisions related to the abuse they are experiencing.
  • Respect their privacy. Because of safety issues, stigma, feelings of shame, and victim-blaming that survivors often face, it is critical that their experiences and identity remain confidential, unless they give explicit consent to reveal them.
  • Offer practical assistance and share resources. Let your friend know that you want to help. If you are able, offer them a safe place to stay, transportation, or other forms of support that may increase their safety.

Let your friend know they can talk with someone who has been trained to help. Provide them with information about local services and helplines.

Helplines

Note: UN Women is not responsible for the information provided by external sources.

Albania – 116 117 and (04) 22 33 408Honduras – 114Philippines – (63) (2) 926 7744
Algeria – 021 92 60 76Hong Kong – 18281Poland – 8011 200 02
Andorra – 860 345Hungary – (36) 80 20 55 20Portugal  – 800 202 148
Angola – 244 2 322295Iceland – (00 354) 5611205Puerto Rico – 787 724 1596
Antigua & Barbuda – (268) 463 5555India – 1091 / 1291Qatar – 4679444
Argentina – 0800 666 8537Indonesia – (0274) 553333Romania – (40) 264 598155
Armenia – 0800 80 850Iran – 07862 733511/0808 2000 247Russian Federation – 8 800 7000 600
Australia – 1800 737 732Iraq – 110Rwanda – 3512/ 3945
Austria – 0 800 222 555Ireland – 1 800 341 900Saint Kitts & Nevis – (869) 469 1887
Azerbaijan – 493 7039/ 498 0092Israel – 1 81 800 292 333Saint Lucia – 202
Bahamas – (242) 328 0922Italy – 15 22Saint Vincent & Grenadines –
(784) 456 2161
Bahrain – 17262237Jamaica – 929 9038Samoa – (685) 22640
Bangladesh – 109Japan – 092 513 7333San Marino – 800 738 738
Barbados – (246) 435 8222Jordan – 00962 6 5687037Saudi Arabia – 1919
Belarus – 8 801 100 8 801Kenya – 2726300 9Scotland – 0800 027 1234
Belgium – 0 800 30030/1712Korea, Republic of (South) – 1366Senegal – (221) 33 941 44 11
Belize – 222 4343Kyrgyzstan – 281 455Serbia – 0 800 100 600
Benin – 8062540376Laos – 856 21 214 30 1/2Seychelles – 248 224 455
Bhutan – (975) 2 332159/334751Latvia – 37 16 72 22 92 2Sierra Leone – 240 215 
Bolivia – (591 4) 663 8517Lebanon –  00961 3 829 809Singapore – 1 800 774 5935
Bosnia & Herzegovina – 1264/1265Lesotho – 266 9 32 58 23Slovakia – 112
Botswana – (267) 3900516/7659Liberia – 443 739 1413Slovenia – 080 11 55
Brazil – 180Liechtenstein – 42 380 02 03Solomon Islands – (677) 26999
Brunei Darussalam – 673 340524Lithuania – 88 0066 366Somalia – (252) 90768248
Bulgaria – 02/981 76 86Luxembourg – 352 407 335South Africa – 0800 150 150
Burkina Faso – 226 31 30 52Macedonia – 070 141 700/075 141 700Spain – 016
Cameroon – 267 220 52 94Malawi – (265) 835 745 / 751 657Sri Lanka – (94 11) 4 718585
Cambodia –  1288Malaysia –  (60) 03 7960 3030 /
7956 3488
Sudan – 9696
Canada – 1 800 363 9010Maldives – 3329329Suriname – 47 0380/8268
Cape Verde – 132
Chile –  800 104 008Mali – 223 23 13 09Swaziland – 95
China – 110Malta – 179Sweden – 020 50 50 50
Colombia – 01 8000 52 2020Marshall Islands – (692) 625 4296Switzerland – 044 291 46 46
Cook Islands – (682) 21133Mauritius – 119 or 233 3054Syria – 00963 11 3120447
Costa Rica – 911Mayotte – 0269 61 29 49Taiwan – 113
Croatia – 116 006Mexico – 01 800 911 25 11Tajikistan – 6 05 10
Cuba – 106Micronesia – (691) 300 8396 / 330 5263Tanzania – 255 51 2861111
Cyprus – 1440Moldova – 0 800 88 008Thailand – 02 276 2950
Czech Republic – 2 51 51 13 13Monaco – 377 92 05 95 05Tibet – (91) 1892 221 527/198
Democratic Republic of the Congo –
(267) 220 52 94
Mongolia – 976 50990505Timor-Leste – 670 (390) 321534
Denmark – 45 70 20 30 82Montenegro – (382) 40213086 / 68024086Tonga – 22 240
Dominican Republic – 809 200 1202Morocco – (212) 2 82 64 00/01Trinidad & Tobago – 800 7283
Ecuador – (244) 7347/6945/7649Mozambique – 800 112 112Tunisia – (216) 71890011/22953782
Egypt – 202 257 87089/76792Namibia – (081) 127 1002/3Turkey – 155/156/183
El Salvador – 126 or 7608-680Nauru – (674) (444) 3883/3881Turkmenistan – (993)12445469/3915
England – 0808 2000 247Nepal – 543 111/527 334Turks and Caicos – (649) 946 2801
Eritrea – 291 1 185636Netherlands – 0 900 126 26 26Tuvalu – (688) 20411
Estonia – 1492New Caledonia – 687 27 13 60Uganda – 256 (0) 753 781 122
Ethiopia – (11) 124 2998/123 0777New Zealand – 0900 842846Ukraine – 0 800 500 335 or 386 (mobile)
Fiji – 679 3313 300Nicaragua – 118United Arab Emirates – 2 4475333
Finland – 080 005 005/0800 02400Niger – (227) 74 12 55United Kingdom – 0808 2000 247
France – 39 19Nigeria – (234) 0704 761 828/845United States – 1 800 799 7233
Georgia – 112Northern Ireland – 0800 917 1414Uruguay – 0800 4141
Germany – 0 8000 116 016Norway – 800 40 008Vanuatu – 24000
Ghana – 233 244 846 701Pakistan – 051 925763 32Venezuela – 0 800 6853737
Gibraltar – 20042581Palau – (680) 767 2452Viet Nam – (971) 34 36/31 43
Greece –  SOS 15900Palestine – (970) 2 295 614 6/7/8Wales – 0808 80 10 800
Grenada – (473) 440 3788Panamá – 147Yemen – 967 1 415814
Guatemala – 2285 0100/0139Papua New Guinea – 3260011Zambia – (260) 1 25 52 04
Guyana – (592) 227 3454/225 4731Paraguay – 021 452 062Zimbabwe – (0)772 1000 49/502/601
Haiti – (509) 2 45 5174/4221Perú – 100 

FACTS AND FIGURES: ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Availability of data on violence against women and girls has increased significantly in recent years

Source: The Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls

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