Worried someone is a victim of domestic abuse

How to tell if someone is a victim

It's sometimes difficult to know if a relative, friend, neighbour or colleague is experiencing domestic violence and abuse.  Victims and perpetrators come from various walks of life. 

Victims aren't always passive with low self-esteem and perpetrators aren't always violent or hateful to their partner in front of others. Most people experiencing relationship violence don't tell others what goes on at home.

Here are some signs you can look for.

Injuries and excuses

Sometimes bruises and injuries may occur frequently and be in obvious places.

The victim may be forced to call in sick to work or face the embarrassment and make excuses about how the injuries occurred.

Sometimes bruises and other injuries may be inflicted in places where they won't show.

Low self-esteem

Some victims have low self-esteem, while others have confidence and esteem in some areas of their life, for example, at work, but not in their relationship.

They may feel powerless in dealing with the relationship and believe they couldn't make it on their own or are somehow better off having the abuser in their life.

Personality changes

You may notice that a normally outgoing person becomes quiet and shy around their partner and is agreeing with them all the time.

This could be a victim's way of dealing with abuse and not wanting to challenge the perpetrator for fear of repercussions.


You may notice someone taking all of the blame for things that go wrong. They may share a story about something that happened at home and then say it was all their fault.

If this happens a lot, it may be a sign that this person is experiencing domestic abuse.

Isolation and control

In general, adults who are physically abused are often isolated. The abuser often exerts control over their victim's life, wanting to be the centre of their universe and limit their access to anyone who might help them escape.

You might notice that someone:

  • Has limited access to the phone.
  • Often makes excuses about why they can't see you or insists that their partner has to come along.
  • Doesn't seem to be able to make decisions about spending money.
  • Isn't allowed to drive, go on courses or get a job.
  • Has a noticeable change in self-esteem which might include being unable to make eye contact or looking away or at the ground when talking.