Anyone can be a victim of relationship abuse. It can affect men and women in both straight and gay relationships, regardless of culture, religion, age or class. It can also affect your children, even if they're not directly experiencing abuse.

It can go on for a long time and often gets worse over time. It can be life threatening.

Relationship abuse is carried out by partners or ex partners. It can be:

  • emotional or psychological – like threats, humiliation, criticism and name-calling (including racial abuse), undermining your self-confidence, controlling what you do or who you speak to, stalking, isolating you from your friends and family, threatening to or distributing intimate images
  • physical – like hitting, punching, kicking or burning
  • sexual – such as rape or forcing you to engage in sexual acts
  • financial – like not letting you work, withholding money
  • Forced marriage is also domestic abuse.
Threatening to or distributing intimate images without permission:

This is sometimes called 'revenge porn' or 'the non-consensual sharing of intimate images'.

Intimate images can be shared in a number of ways, for example by text, social media or showing a physical or digital copy to another person.

What are intimate images?

Intimate images can be pictures or videos of you doing something normally done in private. You may have agreed to the pictures being taken, but you didn't agree to them being shared with others.

An intimate image could show:

  • you taking part in a sexual act
  • your genitals, buttocks or breasts exposed in a private place (for example, at home)
  • you wearing only your underwear in a private place (for example, at home)
Support for perpetrators: 

: a helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators that directs them to programmes in the local area. The helpline also takes calls from (ex) partners, friends and relatives who are concerned about perpetrators. 


I am concerned about someone who works for me

 Managers should be aware of the following:

  • 75% of those experiencing relationship abuse are targeted at work (including on their way to and from work).
  • It is possible to use workplaces resources such as phone and email to perpetuate abuse.
  • Relationship abuse can take many forms.  As well as physical it can include emotional, verbal, sexual or financial abuse – it is about the abuse of power and control of one person by another.
  • On average, a woman will experience 35 episodes of relationship abuse before seeking help. 
  •  Men are less likely to tell anyone about experiencing relationship violence than women. 
  • Relationship abuse can cause staff to be absent from work, late or underperform.  People experiencing abuse of this kind can be subject to disciplinary action or even lose their jobs because of (for example) lateness and absence when the underlying cause is unknown.  It estimated that around 2% of employed women lose their job as a result of relationship abuse, and 20% need to take time off work.
  • Relationship abuse is often a hidden crime, and many incidents are not reported to the police. 
  • Employees may wish to remain at work because they see the workplace as a safe place. 
There are simple steps that managers and organisations can take to respond to this sensitive issue.  Advice is available from HR at all times. 

What to consider:

If an incident has occurred in the workplace, consider if anyone is in immediate danger.  If they are, call 999 or notify security. 

Do any changes need to be made to the workplace to reduce the risk of abuse?  HR can provide information on practical steps that should be considered. 


You don’t have to ask someone if they are experiencing relationship abuse.  You can ask them if they are okay, or let them know if you have observed something that concerns you.  If the individual you are concerned about does not wish to talk, make sure that they are aware they can approach you at any time if they need to discuss anything. 

If someone does tell you that they are experiencing relationship abuse, you may find this list of safety issues to consider useful.  With the permission of the individual, advise your HR Partner.  They will be able to connect you with members of the HR Team that have had specialist training in this area.

Get Support 

More information and support is available from the following organisations:

  • Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline  Phone: 0800 027 1234 (24 hour service) Provides confidential information and support to anyone affected by forced marriage or domestic abuse.
  • Edinburgh Women's Aid Phone: 0131 315 8110 Edinburgh Women’s Aid offers a free, confidential and non-judgemental service to women, children and young people in Edinburgh and surrounding areas who have experienced domestic abuse.
  • Scottish Women's Aid Phone: 0131 226 6606 Provides advice, support and safe accommodation for women (and their children) who have been abused by their partner or ex-partner. They can recommend local groups.
  • Victim Support Scotland Phone: 0345 603 9213 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm) Provides information and support for victims and witnesses of crime.
  • AMIS (Abused Men in Scotland) Phone: 0808 800 0024 Supports men who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. Call the confidential helpline (it's free to call from landlines and most UK mobiles, and doesn't appear on itemised phone bills)
  • Respect Men's Advice Line Phone: 0808 801 0327 For men experiencing domestic abuse from their current or ex-partner
  • SACRO Fearless Project Fearless is a support service for any man, or LGBTI+ person experiencing domestic abuse.
  • AMINA Phone: 0808 801 0301 (Helpline Open Mon - Fri, 10am - 4pm) Helpline for Scotland providing support to women from minority backgrounds who have been affected by violence against women. Support is available in English, Urdu, Arabic, Bangla and Swahili. Service also runs a VAW awareness programme.
  • Practical advice and Relationship Abuse Support
  • Stonewall guidance for LGBT people experience domestic violence:
  •  DWP information, including information on benefits:
Support for perpetrators

: a helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators that directs them to programmes in the local area. The helpline also takes calls from (ex) partners, friends and relatives who are concerned about perpetrators.


There are two ways you can tell us what happened