Staying at home and abusive relationships

Page last reviewed: 13 January 2022

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.

For people in abusive relationships, home has not been a safe space during the pandemic.

While we might not be in lockdown anymore, the fears and uncertainties linked to coronavirus may make abusers more tense, angry and unpredictable than usual. You may still be spending more time than before at home which may have increased your risk of experiencing abuse. It may also be harder to escape to places where you feel safer, more supported and better able to seek help.

The pandemic has made things harder for many people in abusive relationships. A report from Women’s Aid showed over 90% of people experiencing domestic abuse said the pandemic had made things worse. Many said the abuse had worsened and they felt they had nowhere to turn.

Ways to help yourself

Try to stick to a daily routine that supports your mental and physical health. Going outdoors for a walk, run or to the shops will give you a break from the other person and could be a chance to seek help.

If your internet browsing history is not being monitored, it might be helpful to join online discussion forums. Women’s Aid has a Survivors’ Forum for women affected by domestic abuse. Or you could join a group on completely different topics, for example, music, local action to help people affected by the coronavirus, or other interests you may have.

Women’s Aid has more advice and resources for anyone living with an abusive person during the pandemic.

Get help and support

If you are in immediate danger, call the police or an ambulance on 999. If you’re unable to talk on the phone, call 999 and then press 55. This will transfer your call to the relevant police force who will assist you without you having to speak.

Stay connected to those you trust

If it’s possible, use technology such as phone, e-mail or messaging apps to stay in daily (or more frequent) touch with people who know about your situation. This will help you stay connected, show the abuser that other people know how you are (if it’s safe to let them know you’re in touch with people), and may alert others if they don't hear from you.

Find a safe space in your local pharmacy

Some local pharmacies provide Safe Spaces – consultation rooms you can use to safely reach out to friends and family or find details of specialist domestic abuse support.

Other pharmacies may have an ‘Ask for ANI’ poster on display. If you ask a member of staff for ANI, they will take you to a private consultation room where you can access help.

Get information and advice

  • Bright Sky is an app and website with information and advice about domestic abuse as well as contact details of local support services. Only download the app if it’s safe to do so and your phone isn’t being monitored.
  • Visit Gov.uk for advice on recognising domestic abuse, getting help, and checking whether someone has an abusive past.
  • Women’s Aid has a list of local services for people experiencing domestic abuse and a Survivor’s Handbook with information on subjects such as housing and dealing with the police.

Call a helpline if it’s safe to do so

Many of these services also offer help by email and webchat if it’s safer or easier for you to use those.

  • Refuge has a free 24-hour helpline for women and girls: 0808 2000 247.
  • The Men’s Advice Line supports male domestic abuse survivors: 0808 801 0327.
  • The Mix offers free information and support for under 25s: 0808 808 4994.
  • The National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline supports LGBT+ people: 0800 999 5428.
  • Rights of Women offers free legal advice to help you make important decisions about your future. They have different advice lines depending on the sort of help you need.

The Respond to Abuse helpline and app provide free support, guidance and information to employers who want to support employees experiencing domestic abuse. 

The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.

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If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit the Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.