How to identify abuse 

SFW Guidelines 

The following guidelines have been drafted to assist potential survivors, our partners and supporters to safeguard female survivors by following a basic guideline in identifying who might be subjected to domestic abuse.

Needless to say that this is just a guideline, if you feel or identify any other indicators of abuse, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will do our best to support you and the woman/women in question.


Signs of Physical abuse

  • Forces you to have sex when you do not want to

  • Controls your birth control or insists that you get pregnant

  • Prevents or discourages you from going to work/school or seeing your family or friends

  • Destroys your personal things

  • Slap, hit or punches you

  • Pushes or shoves you

  • Bites or kicks you

  • Burns you

  • Chokes you or holds you down

  • Throws things to scare, intimate or hurt you

Signs of Mental abuse

Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it is happening.

It can be more harmful than physical abuse as it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. 

The abuser projects their words, attitudes, or actions onto an unsuspecting survivor usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.

In the following areas, ask these questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:

Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticising

  • Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?

  • Do they tease you, use sarcasm to put you down or degrade you?

  • When you complain do, they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?

  • Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”

  • Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?

Domination, control, and shame

  • Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?

  • Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behaviour is “inappropriate?”

  • Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?

  • Do they control your spending?

  • Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?

  • Do they make you feel as though they are always right?

  • Do they remind you of your shortcomings?

  • Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?

  • Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behaviour?


Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings

  • Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it is not true?

  • Are they unable to laugh at themselves?

  • Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?

  • Do they have trouble apologising?

  • Do they make excuses for their behaviour or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?

  • Do they call you names or label you?

  • Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?

  • Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?

Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect

  • Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?

  • Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?

  • Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?

  • Do they not notice or care how you feel?

  • Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?

Co-dependency and enmeshment

  • Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?

  • Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?

  • Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?

  • Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?


DISCLAIMER: This is no way a comprehensive list as each survivor's story is based on their own experiences, however, most of these guidelines have been retracted from official websites and organisations who also work to support survivors of abuse, as well as invaluable personal experiences of proud survivors.