Physical abuse and threats is prohibited

When someone hurts you, or threatens to hurt you, it is considered physical abuse and is prohibited in Iceland. It doesn‘t matter whether there is physical harm or not. It is also physical abuse if someone refuses to provide for your physical needs, like medicine. There is never any excuse for physically abusing someone. Often emotional abuse occurs before physical violence begins.

The consequences can have different degrees of severity. The more severe the abuse is, the more of an effect it will have on your mental health. The longer abuse occurs, the more effect it can have on your health. The effects of abuse linger long after the abuse stops. The most severe consequences of physical abuse in close relationships are when someone murders their spouse or partner.

Having to witness abuse is also abuse. Children who witness abuse in their homes experience similar negative effect and as if they have been abused.

It is physical abuse when someone:

  • Threatens to hurt you or others in your home.
  • Threatens to hurt themselves.
  • Threatens you with facial expressions or clenched fists.
  • Threatens you with a weapon, like a knife, or something that could be used as a weapon.
  • Says they want to kill you or act that way (choke you).
  • Grabs you to prevent you from leaving.
  • Intentionally destroys your things.
  • Hurts you in any physical manner.
  • Forces you to take medicine.
  • Prohibits you from taking necessary medicines.

Cycle of violence

Violence in intimate relationships often follows the same behavioural pattern known as the cycle of violence.

  1. Tension builds up.
  2. At some point the tension is released in the form of physical or emotional abuse.
  3. “The honeymoon phase” follows where the abusive person is full of regret.

Then this vicious cycle repeats itself.

Get help

If you want assistance, you can contact abuse centres for free: at Bjarkarhlíð in Reykjavík, Bjarmahlíð in Akureyri or Sigurhæðir in Selfoss. They specialize in abuse support. It doesn‘t matter how long it has been since the abuse occurred.

If the abuse occurred recently it is a good idea to get an injury report at the hospital emergency room. This report can be used if you decide to press charges. If you live with an abusive partner, it's a good idea to create a safety plan for you, and your children.

Women and their children, who are experiencing domestic violence have a safe place to go, The Women’s Shelter. It is also intended for women who are victims of rape or human trafficking. At the shelter, women are offered the help of consultants. They get a place to stay as well as advice, support, and useful information, everything for free.

Everyone, both adults and children, can talk to someone for free at 1717 (Red Cross helpline) through phone or web chat.

Violence is punishable by Icelandic law, regardless who the abuser is or who the victim is.

Anna‘s story

Unusually high proportion of women who seek help at the women‘s shelter are of foreign origin. Their abusers often take advantage of the women’s lack of social network and supply them with false information. Anna from Russia shares her experience with an Icelandic husband who abused her. After she looked for help, she left him and started a new life with her children.

Have you hurt, scared, or controlled your partner?

Sonja‘s story

Sonja shares with us details from her relationship with a man who abused her. Her experience began with emotional abuse and lead to physical abuse. No one in Sonja‘s life knew of the abuse. Sonja left the relationship after 18 years. Today she is no longer afraid.

Do you recognize abuse?

See more stories


Áslaug is in a stormy relationship and is constantly telling her spouse what she does not like in their communications but he keeps crossing her boundaries. After she became pregnant the situation has only become worse. She has started to avoid certain topics, like politics and parenting, because he always gets mad when she does.

Áslaug knows that she is no angel herself and often does something that she knows will make him angry. Áslaug has also yelled herself back at him and pushed him to get out of violent situations. He has never hit her but sometimes he holds her so she can't move and throws things.

Is this abuse?

Available support

See all support


Bjarkarhlíð is a center for people who have experienced abuse. There you get all the support and counseling you need in one place. All assistance is on your terms.

Setustofa hjá Bjarkarhlíð. Hér má sjá þrjá hægindastóla. Tveir eru nær og milli þeirra borð með lampa. Einn er fjær, með borð við hlið sér og hillur þar sem meðal annars er kaffikanna, bollar og nokkur tímarit. Ein planta og standlampi eru við hlið hillunnar.

Bjarmahlíð in Akureyri

Bjarmahlíð is a center for people who have experienced abuse. There you get all the support and counseling you need in one place. All assistance is on your terms.

Women's Shelter

The Women‘s Shelter offers counseling and a safe place to stay for any woman who has experienced abuse in a close relationship.

Safety plan

A safety plan is a way to protect your safety as well as your children’s, whether it is within the relationship or if you decide to leave.

Kona dregur frá gluggatjöldum

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when someone touches you inappropriately or sexually or forces you to perform a sexual act against your will. Sexual harassment, when someone speaks to you in a sexual or sexually derogative manner, is also abuse.