Do you recognise that you are abusive to your partner? Are you concerned that your behaviour towards your partner is costing you your relationship? Are you worried your children are witnessing too many arguments between their parents? 

It's important to face up to how your behaviour affects your partner. The more you can understand what your behaviour is like for them, the harder it will be to behave badly towards them in future.  Most people get into relationships because they care for their partner. You may not intend hurting them, but you are. You may be feeling bad about how you've behaved — ashamed or guilty.

Effects of your abusive behaviour

Your behaviour is likely to be having a serious effect on your partner's health. If you've used physical violence, you've probably caused injuries. These might include soreness, aching, numbness, headaches, cuts and other wounds, black eyes and bruising burst ear drums, or broken bones. In some cases people have been killed or permanently disabled by their partners.

Even if you haven't been physically violent, your partner may have developed physical problems as a result of your abuse, such as feeling physically tense, having difficulty sleeping, feeling exhausted, having panic attacks, palpitations, being physically sick. As well as the physical effects, abuse also has an impact on a person's emotional well-being. They may feel stressed, vulnerable, depressed, ashamed, drained, terrified, confused, nervous, hurt, unloved, worthless, destroyed, scared, and humiliated. It is likely that your relationship will suffer as a result of your behaviour and may even result in the relationship breaking down completely.

Your abusive behaviour will also be having an emotional and a physical impact on your children.

How can I change?

It can be hard to face up to what you've done and how it's affected others and you might find yourself minimising things, pretending things aren't that bad. When you do this you're not taking responsibility for your actions, because:

  • It makes you feel better in the short term — if you're not responsible for your violence, then you don't have to feel bad about it .
  • It means that you don't have to do anything about it — if you're not the one responsible for the violence, then there's no point looking at your own behaviour and attitudes or trying to change them.
  • It means you can't stop your violence — if you aren't responsible for it, then there's nothing you can do to prevent it happening again.

It's very tempting to try and deny responsibility for your behaviour by blaming your partner. There are many other ways in which you can wriggle out of responsibility for your behaviour by saying that the reason for it was some kind of outside influence such as work problems, money worries, things that have happened to you in your past. However, plenty of people experience these things and don't become abusive to their partners. One of the first steps to ending abuse is to take full responsibility for your behaviour. 

You need to recognise that it's up to you what you do and how you behave, and to stop blaming your partner. It can be tough facing up to difficult problems but if you are committed to changing your abusive behaviour then there is help and support available. Changing abusive behaviours is a long and difficult process. The Respect website provides lots of useful information to help you recognise your abusive behaviour and suggests way you can tackle it. This website is not designed as an alternative to a specialist behaviour-change groupwork programme which you may find more helpful in the process of change.

Programmes for perpetrators

There are two types of domestic violence perpetrator programmes in the UK — criminal justice programmes and voluntary community based programmes.

  • Criminal justice based programmes are usually run by probation or prison staff, and only take referrals from the criminal courts as part of a sentence for a conviction for a violent or abusive incident.
  • Voluntary community based programmes are usually run by a voluntary sector organisation or part of a voluntary/statutory sector partnership, and can take self referrals as well as referrals from Children's Services, the family courts and a range of other services. In order to make sure that the programme is run as safely as possible and with the maximum possible chance of supporting change a risk assessment and management plan will be undertaken. 

Both types of programmes will also have links to safety and/or support services for partners and ex-partners of programme participants.

Anger management programmes, educational programmes for men, awareness raising short courses and couples counselling services are NOT domestic violence perpetrator programmes as they do not include the full range of service necessary to provide a safe and meaningful opportunity for domestic violence perpetrators to stop being violent. For anger management programmes this is primarily because they are about managing anger, not stopping violence and promoting safety. They do not have contact with partners/ex-partners and is therefore not recognised as being a safe service for perpetrators.

Couples counselling alone, whilst it can and often does form a useful addition after successful behaviour change in a perpetrator programme, does not constitute a perpetrator programme, primarily because couples counselling will not be safe and effective for victims to participate in freely, a requirement for couples counselling to be meaningful.

Support Services


Helpline offering information and advice to people who are abusive towards their partners and want help to stop.

Tel: 0808 8024040 and Email Support- Mon-Fri 9am-10pm (weekend email support 10am-noon and 4pm-6pm). WebChat- Wed-Fri 10am-11am and 3pm-4pm