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An anonymous student writes about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her boyfriend and offers some advice on how to spot the signs of an abusive partner.

As third year students, there are many pressures on us – to get that 2:1; line up that career; squeeze every Bristol night out you can before the terrifying move out into the big world (or back home to mum and dads).

Having racked up a small fortune in debts and tears obtaining a degree, I live with the frustration that my last five months of university have been marred by an abusive relationship.

Around my twenty-first birthday and my dissertation hand-in date, I returned home from the holiday from hell with my ex-boyfriend and broke down, beginning my journey into awareness of the domestic abuse I had suffered at his hand.

Romanticising abusive patterns of behaviour is a very real and typical reaction, but there are some things you can’t excuse.

You cannot excuse bruises.

You cannot excuse having your social media controlled and being refused access online without being monitored.

You cannot excuse being made to see sex as the least you can do for your abusive partner, agreeing to sexual acts which make you feel uncomfortable and worthless in a blind hope to pacify someone.

You cannot excuse being made to agree to your own poor character.

It can be difficult to recognise abusive behaviour, especially when an abusive partner will often make excuses. You MUST learn the signs of abusive behaviour to stay safe.

Listing the acts committed against me reduces my ordeal to gossip; rather, I’d like to advise any man or woman on how to spot the signs and how to act.

Firstly, DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS. It seems obvious to an outsider what counts as abuse, but it is likely your partner will convince you that you’re overreacting and are horrible for even considering their behaviour as abusive.

If it is safe to do, talk to a third party. If telling someone is impossible, use the online tests available.

Having recognition that you’re not going mad, this is wrong and something must change, may help you to act.

Within one search I found the following site with a test:

Having answered YES to the majority of the questions, I was surprised by the concluding statement: ‘If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, this indicates that you may be experiencing domestic abuse.’

Recognise that you do not need a long list of abusive behaviours to class your relationship as abusive. Do not wait for more. One incident is enough.

Abuse is defined as any controlling, coercive, threatening, belittling or violent behaviour. If you recognise this pattern of behaviour, act.

What to do when in an abusive relationship:

  • Recognise what may make your partner angry and ways in which they are pacified. Preventing an outburst, though not always possible, is best in the short-term for preventing further abuse.
  • Speed-dial – if safe to do, have emergency and domestic support line numbers in your phone or available to you in the case of an emergency.
  • Form escape plans – it is vital that you are aware of the worse-case scenario and have prepared for it. Your SAFETY, not your RELATIONSHIP, must take priority. If it’s as simple as hiding some money for a quick escape, do it.
  • Know your risk areas – if you are being abused in the kitchen, move to a room where there are few objects which could be used against you. Hide things you think may be used as weapons.

What to do when leaving or out of an abusive relationship:

  • Going to the police can be daunting and not always the right thing to do for you. I cannot advise the best or safest route to go down, but I can recommend Victim Support, an organisation centred on such incidences and informed enough to advise you on your next steps.
  • Do not belittle the danger you may be in. It is better to be safe than sorry.
  • The first weeks after leaving an abusive relationship are when you’re at your highest risk:
    • Block any mediums through which your ex may try to contact you; NEVER RESPOND – responding, even if to say you have left them, gives your partner power over you once more.
    • NEVER TRAVEL ALONE – though it may seem an overreaction, you are not simply preventing violence against you but emotional manipulation. An abusive partner is clever enough to convince you to have them back in your life.
    • Alter your routines where possible.
  • Inform your employers or education institute on what has happened, preventing this from impacting on your work life anymore.
  • Don’t be afraid of 999 – you are not wasting time if you feel in danger.

There is a wealth of information online on how to recognise, act and move on from domestic abuse.

What I want any readers to take away from this short article, however, is the reality that it could be you.

I could not accept my abuse because I thought ‘surely this can’t be happening to me, I must be overreacting.’

WRONG. Abuse can take any form, be directed at any person, and impact a life irreversibly.

Be aware. Recognise the signs. Act.


Thank you to this anonymous student for sharing their story.

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