About abuse

Photography copyright Julian Nieman for Refuge

Jerome Henderson, Dallas Cowboys Secondary Coach, Former NFL CB

“There were times I wanted to talk about violence and abuse in relationships, but didn’t know where to turn.” American football player, aged 21

What is abuse in a relationship?

Abuse can be any kind of repeated behaviour which is used as a way of getting power and control over a girlfriend, boyfriend or partner. Abuse can be physical, non-physical, psychological, sexual, or financial:

Physical abuse
Non-physical/emotional abuse
Psychological abuse
Financial abuse

If you know someone who has changed their behaviour because she is scared of her partner’s reaction – she is being abused.

Photography copyright Julian Nieman for Refuge
Jordan Palmer, EXOS QB Coach, Former NFL QB

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse includes any form of sexual activity (involving physical contact, words, or photographs) that takes place without the other person’s full and informed consent. Even if you’re in a relationship with someone it’s important to make sure your partner agrees to any sexual act every time you engage in any sexual activity.



Sexual abuse can include:Understanding consent:Who does sexual abuse affect?
  • Pressuring or forcing someone to do something sexual
  • Touching someone without permission
  • Unwanted sexting
  • Sharing intimate images without permission
  • Unwanted sexual attention, for example wolf whistling, sexualised comments about women’s bodies
  • Watching a sexual act take place without permission
  • Engaging in sexual acts with someone who is too drunk or too intoxicated to give consent
  • Making someone watch or appear in pornography against their will
  • Preventing someone from using contraception
  • Being sexually unfaithful or wrongly accusing a partner of being unfaithful
  • When you’re having sex, or doing something intimate with another, person it’s important to be sure that they want to be doing it too – that they have consented
  • The absence of “no” doesn’t mean yes. Someone might have been pressured or frightened into doing something they don’t want to – this means they haven’t consented. Only a clear YES means yes
  • Everyone has the right to say no to any kind of sexual activity, or to change their mind at any time before or during sex
  • Relationship and sexual abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, class, or background
  • Research shows that the majority of relationship and sexual abuse is experienced by women and girls
  • But men can also be victims, in both straight and gay relationships