Legal experts have launched a quiz to highlight the potential red flags that could indicate your partner may become toxic
The quiz has been released to mark No More Week, an annual opportunity to raise awareness of domestic abuse and sexual violence across the globe
The quiz comes as Office for National Statistics data showed police recorded 912,181 offences related to domestic abuse in the year ending June 2022
Read on for a detailed breakdown of how the quiz works and some of the warning signs to watch out for
Relationships aren't always easy and there may be times when your partner behaves in a way you're not sure about. But if it starts to become a regular occurrence or you begin to notice other traits that make you feel unsafe, it is important to be able to spot some potential warning signs of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is defined as an incident or string of incidents that include degrading, controlling, coercive and violent behaviour, and it is way more common than you might think.
Recent statistics from Women's Aid reveal that the police receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour in England and Wales alone.
Further Office for National Statistics data showed police recorded 912,181 offences related to domestic abuse in the year ending June 2022, up 14% from the year ending March 2020 and a recent government report also estimated that 6.9% of women and 3% of men aged 16 and over experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2022, equivalent to 1.7 million women and 699,000 men.
You might think you'd be able to tell if you're in an abusive relationship, but it isn’t always easy to notice. Many abusers' actions, as well as their coercion and manipulation tactics, can manifest slowly and inconspicuously, so much so that a victim might not even know it is happening to them.
To mark No More Week (March 5-12), an annual opportunity to raise awareness of domestic abuse and sexual violence across the globe, family law experts, Crisp & Co have launched a free online Relationship Red Flags Quiz which aims to highlight potential problematic relationship red flags.
The hope is that it will provide a better understanding of traits that could ultimately lead to domestic violence, or be classed as abusive, coercive, or controlling, because recognising toxic behaviour when you see it is one of the first steps toward helping yourself, or someone you care for, stay safe.
“One of the first steps to tackling issues within a relationship is recognising the signs of domestic violence and abuse," explains Anuradha Kurl, partner at Crisp & Co. "Often, victims are lulled into a false sense of security before tactics begin.
"Domestic abuse is typically associated with physical acts of assault, but it can also be psychological, sexual, emotional, or even financial," Kurl continues. "This is why victims struggle to come forward or even recognise their partner’s behaviour is abusive and controlling.
“Basic understandings of manipulation tactics can also help others spot signs in relationships close to them. It could be that a person recognises traits in family or friend’s relationships who could then offer help.”
From love bombing and stonewalling to downplaying your accomplishments and taking over the decision-making, here are some of the quiz questions highlighting relationship traits it's worth watching out for.
Early in the relationship, did your partner shower you with gifts, compliments, or even declarations of love, which caught you off-guard?
If you're being shown love early doors, that has to be a good thing right? Not necessarily, say the experts.
In some relationships it is part of a person’s natural personality and love language to show affection via gift-giving, but this can also be indicative of a process called love bombing.
"Love bombing is when a partner you’re newly dating serenades you with gifts and over-the-top gestures, therefore creating the illusion of romance and charm," explains Kurl. "However, these grandiose efforts may also feel sudden, overwhelming, and intense, and can ultimately lead to increased pressure to commit."
Kurl says love bombing can be a controlling and manipulation tactic that is often used by abusers and narcissists in an attempt to influence a person through flattery and affection.
"In the beginning, love bombing may make a relationship feel amazing, but soon the façade will wear thin and can be replaced by emotional abuse," she adds.
Are there inconsistencies between what your partner says and what they do?
Displaying confused emotions and actions is another potential red flag for future toxic behaviour.
"Abusers and narcissists may manipulate their partners by displaying intense feelings of love and affection one minute, and being evasive and dismissive the next," explains Kurl. "This hot and cold behaviour is a common tactic used to make a victim dismiss the latter behaviour because of the former behaviour they exhibit."
These mixed messages can be used as a form of control and exploitation, Kurl says, and the uncertainty can make the victim question their own sanity and judgement.
"Over time, these pleasant gestures tend to wear thin and can be replaced by coercion and manipulation," she adds.
Watch: Mel B admits she doesn't know if she trusts police enough to report domestic abuse
Does your partner ever dissuade you from seeing/speaking to friends or family, causing a sense of isolation?
Isolating an individual from friends and family is a common tactic used in abusive relationships. It can lead to the victim becoming extremely dependent on their abuser.
It can also be an example of coercive control.
Women's Aid describes coercive control as "an act or a pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim".
This form of abuse, which isn't always physical, is "designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour".
"The more dependent a person is on the abuser the easier it is to control their actions," explains Kurl. "Cutting off others reduces the chances of behaviour being questioned or picked up on too so it means control can continue for longer."
Are you made to feel like you can’t take care of yourself or make your own decisions?
You might think it could be a good thing having someone else make decisions for you, but according to Kurl this kind of behaviour can make you question your own sanity and self-worth.
"Abusers tend to manipulate and disempower their victims through tactics that can make an individual question their own judgement," Kurl explains. "The most common tactics that we hear from victims in a legal setting include, name-calling, humiliation, criticism and belittlement.
"This type of abuse can initially be hard to spot, as victims tend to internalise this behaviour and question what they’re doing wrong," she adds.
Does your partner constantly minimise and downplay your accomplishments and aspirations?
A partner who repeatedly invalidates and minimises their significant other’s ambitions and successes can indicate potential manipulation in a relationship.
"Through frequent dismissal, the victim is led to believe they’re small and insignificant and over time, this can lead to emotional dependence on the abuser," explains Kurl.
"In some cases, victims may even find themselves experiencing feelings of guilt and shame without knowing what triggered those emotions. However, because this type of emotional manipulation often works by confusing the victim, the abuse can often be hard to detect in the relationship."
What to do if you think you might be experiencing domestic abuse
As well as the traits highlighted above, Refuge says there are some other behavioural red flags to look out for including; your partner being possessive and jealous, playing mind games and making you doubt your judgement (also known as ‘gaslighting’).
Controlling your money, or making you dependent on them for everyday things, monitoring or tracking your movements or messages, pressuring you to have sex when you don’t want to or using anger and intimidation to frighten and control you are further potential signs to look out for.
"Domestic abuse isn’t always physical, and non-physical forms of abuse need to be recognised as being extremely harmful to survivors too," explains Ruth Davison, Refuge chief executive officer.
“If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, this could be abuse," Davison adds. "If you are afraid of your partner, or simply concerned that something isn’t right, you are not alone and support is available."
Where to go for help
If you recognise some of these warning signs you may be experiencing domestic abuse, free and confidential support is available from Refuge’s 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and digital support via live chat Monday-Friday 3-10pm via nationaldahelpline.org.uk.
Anyone experiencing domestic abuse, including survivors of past abuse, can get help from Victim Support – regardless of whether or not it’s been reported to the police. Visit victimsupport.org.uk where you can get in touch via Live Chat or by calling the charity’s 24/7 support line on 08 08 16 89 111.
If you think you or someone else might be in danger, call the police immediately on 999. If it's hard to make contact for help, see this information page on what 'safe spaces' are.
Other places to go for help and advice: