Many women who have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse have asked the questions below, the answers provided may help you to understand your own situation.

We would like to thank IDAS for sharing these questions and responses with us.

​Am I to blame for the abuse?

No, is the short answer to this. It is quite common for abusive people to blame the victim as a way of avoiding taking responsibility for their actions. It is normal for people in relationships to become irritated at times and to argue. It is not normal for one person to control, assault, manipulate and / or bully another and you are not to blame for this happening.

Why do I still love them, even though they've done this to me?

The person you fell in love with probably wasn't abusive to you when you first fell in love with them. In fact, abusive partners often initially appear completely the opposite, being charming, kind, attentive and eager to commit. As a result of this, normally people will see the non-abusive side of their partner as 'the real them' and the abusive side as ‘not really them’ and something that may well have been caused by some kind of life experience. Sadly, however, the abusive part of them is as much a part of the 'real' them as the non-abusive part and sometimes more so. It can be that they are kind or do something nice as a means to an end rather than kindness for its own sake. Part of being able to deal with domestic abuse involves starting to accept that you can't have one part of this person without the other, unless they accept responsibility for their actions and get help through things such as perpetrator programmes to address their issues.

My partner says they are abusive to me because they were abused. Does this mean they can't help it?

No, it doesn't. We are all responsible for our own actions. No one makes them say abusive things or behave abusively. They choose to do these things. Sometimes people who have been abused will repeat these abusive behaviours but having experienced it doesn't justify doing it to others. In some ways it is worse that they do it because they know what it’s like to be a victim. If they want to stop being abusive, they can, as long as they take responsibility and seek help.

I have had several abusive partners now - is it my fault?

Abusive partners are often able to identify vulnerability in their new potential partners and are often good at exploiting this. One in four women are a victim of domestic abuse, so it is relatively common for people to be in one or more abusive relationships.

Will anger management help them to stop being abusive?

It can help some people to control their anger, however perpetrator programmes designed specifically to address domestic abuse are a better option because they help to identify and address the underlying causes of the abuse and look at power and control within the relationship. Occasionally anger management programmes can inadvertently make the situation worse by teaching someone how to control and channel their anger more effectively.

Why do I feel worse now I've left?

It’s normal to grieve when a relationship ends, partly because you have invested so much energy in making it work and partly because there may be bits of the relationship you have enjoyed.

In an abusive relationship you can also be so busy trying to survive that you don't have much time to stop and reflect on your circumstances. When you leave, you have time to think about what's happened to you and where you are now, you let that emotional guard down and suddenly you can experience a lot of very strong emotions. It's very common to initially feel worse after you've left but as you get more distant from the relationship you'll start to feel stronger and often start to see just how unhappy you were and how bad it was for you.

They say they've changed - how do I know if they have?

Domestic abuse centres around the use of power, to control one individual by another. If there is still a fundamental imbalance in the relationship (e.g. it's still largely on their terms, even though other forms of abuse may have stopped) then it is likely the abuse will continue. If they are not accepting that they are responsible for their own actions and actively addressing them, then it is likely they have not changed. We can help you look at your situation and understand the abuse within it and whether there are signs that they have changed or are likely to continue being abusive.

Since I've left, my partner has been really nice. Does this mean they have changed?

They may have, but it’s unlikely. Statistically this is the highest risk time in terms of abuse (when the relationship is about to end or has ended). Part of the reason for this, is that they have lost control of you and the situation. A way of attempting to regain control can be by being really nice.

It is very common for people, where being nice is not effective, to become very nasty as a different way of trying to get control. People can swing between nice and nasty in this way in a matter of minutes, hours, days or weeks, depending on the individual. Being nice can be another way of being abusive and trying to make you do what they want.

Every time I leave, my partner says sorry and says they'll change. I keep going back but they never change, so why do I keep going back?

Most of us are optimistic about our relationships and we want them to work because we have invested time, love and energy into making them work. An abusive relationship is no different but what differs is, once you've been abused, your self-esteem and sense of self-worth can be seriously affected. This can leave you with little confidence you cope alone, as well fears about what will happen if you are alone. It can also make you doubt whether you are worthy of happiness to a point that the relationship you know, even though it is abusive, feels comfortingly familiar.

All of these things can contribute to you returning. It’s important to understand what motivates you to return and to give yourself time out of the relationship to work out what you really want with your life.

They've changed but I can't forgive them for the way they have treated me. Is this common?

Occasionally people can change but it can be very hard to forgive someone that you loved and trusted, who has abused that trust. Just because someone has stopped being abusive, doesn't mean you have to stay with them. It's OK to realise that their behaviour has done too much damage to the relationship and that you can't move past it enough to be able to build a future together.

I thought I'd moved on but now my ex has a new partner and I feel jealous - why?

Jealousy is for the partner you wanted them to be and also part of grieving for the relationship. It’s normal and will subside in time.