Domestic Abuse: A Survivor’s Guide

A Survivors Guide

By Roisin Ross, illustrations by Martina Rossetti

This is a resource for those of us who are feeling confused about whether they are experiencing domestic abuse; what is domestic abuse exactly; and what to do if you are experiencing domestic abuse. 

Please note, this resource focuses on intimate partner abuse rather than abuse from a family member or carer. So, we’re talking about ex or current partners.

What is Domestic Abuse?

The UK Government defines Domestic Abuse as: ‘Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse’.  

Our definition: If your partner controls you, makes you feel like shit, threatens you, makes you feel crazy or is a straight-up bastard.

It can sometimes be hard for survivors to work out if they are experiencing abuse, often this is down to the way your perpetrator makes you feel, your own self-doubt, society’s misconceptions and stigmas.

We’re here to help you work it out.

Take A Look – Are You Experiencing Any Of The Below?

*NOTE – this chart does not include everything that makes up domestic violence.

If you are experiencing any of the above, you are experiencing a type of domestic abuse. These can be:

  • Physical (pushes you to the floor)
  • Emotional (shouts at you)
  • Psychological (says you are crazy)
  • Sexual (makes you have sex with them)
  • Financial (spends all your money)

Domestic abuse can also include forced marriage (you face pressure to marry someone you don’t want to) and so-called ‘honor’ based violence (actions used to control your behavior within families or other social groups as a punishment for or prevention of you bringing ‘dishonor’ to them). We’ve listed specialist organizations at the end of the booklet for these types of abuse.

Simply, all of the above is UNACCEPTABLE. But will your partner change? Probably not. 

We don’t recommend couples counselling, anger management or any of that crap. You should not be with someone who puts your life is at risk, bruises your self-confidence or allows you to settle for less than you deserve.

Am I In A Cycle Of Abuse?

The cycle of abuse is how an abuser keeps you hopeful and under their control in an abusive relationship. So how does it work? 

*Note that although this cycle relates to some abusive relationships, domestic violence can vary according to individual situations. 

As a relationship progresses, we see the honeymoon period getting shorter, the reconciliation tactics becoming shittier and the storms more severe. 

Abusers use tactics to keep you under their power and control. These can be threats to harm your relationship, friendships, family, social life, job, harm you physically, isolate you, lie to you, use your finances and many more ways to make you feel totally shit. They use things against you in different ways to show they have power and you do not. This causes you to be fearful of them.


No matter how your abuser tries to justify their actions, you are not responsible for how another person treats you. 

You are not blame, no matter if you have forgiven them, taken them back, excused their behavior or trusted they will change. 

You do not deserve this and they don’t deserve you.

The only person to blame and shame for the abuse is your abuser. 

It is always your choice if you want to remain in a relationship or not. We are not going to tell you what to do. We just want you to be safe in or out of your relationship.

If you are going to end your relationship with your abusive partner, we advise you not to tell them until you are in a safe place with good support. Leaving an abusive partner can trigger further violence so it is important you leave the relationship safely.

If you are going to leave, there are a couple things to do that will keep you a little bit safer:

  • Register for the 999 text service. Text ‘register’ to 999. In times of need all you have to do is text 999 with the message: ‘Police, Domestic Abuse and your address’.
  • Use the silent solution. Call 999 and when the operator answers press 55. The operator will try to find other ways to get help to you through using buttons on the phone, coughing or making discreet noises.
  • Have a spare phone. If your partner takes your phone away, keep a spare one that you can hide in times of need.
  • Develop code words with the people you trust. This could be on an active group chat you use daily.  If you ever send that code word, a trusted person will see it quickly and be able to help.
  • Consider calling the National Domestic Abuse Helpline if you need specialist support – 0808 2000 247.
  • Download the ‘Bright Sky’ or ‘Hollie Guard’ app for Domestic Abuse and safety support.
  • Tell one person you trust what is going on, they can have a check in and out system with you.
  • If you are really concerned with your partner’s behavior and want to leave safely, contact your local domestic abuse service and get yourself an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA). They are the best people to help.