Do you suspect that someone is being abused in a relationship?

t’s OK to ask if you suspect abuse. You might be afraid of saying something wrong but as long as you stay calm, listen, believe and do not blame the person who you are speaking to, you are a big support. Most people are glad to have the opportunity to talk about what they are going through.

A person who experiences abuse in a relationship might:

  • Stop meeting friends and family without an obvious reason.
  • Be worried about making the other person angry.
  • Repeatedly justify the negative behaviour of the other person.
  • Seem afraid or nervous around certain people.
  • Have marks or wounds on their body that they cannot explain.
  • Be worried that they are being monitored, followed, or controlled in some way.

The person that inflicts abuse might:

  • Talk down to the other person often.
  • Set many rules about how the other person should behave.
  • Control the other person’s behaviour, such as where they go, who they meet and speak to, how money is spent, and how or when they use their phone, car or computer.
  • Get angry when the rules are not followed.
  • Behave in a threatening manner.
  • Threaten to hurt the other person physically.
  • Threaten to commit suicide when they do not get their way.

9 reasons why people don’t leave an abusive relationship immediately

There are many reasons a person may stay in a relationship in which they are being abused. Here are 9 common ones.

Manneskja stendur við hlið stiga sem hverfur upp um gat í loftinu. Við horfum aftan á hana. Hún horfir upp eftir stiganum. Hún er með sítt dökkt hár, er í peysu og buxum og léttum skóm.

Helping a loved one in an abusive relationship

Finding out that someone close to you has experienced abuse is difficult. You might want to help but you don’t really know what you can do. By staying calm, listening, believing them and not blaming the person who you are speaking to about what happened, you show a great deal of support.

People who experience abuse in a close relationship often feel as if they are stuck and do not have any control. This feeling can worsen if you push them to react in the way that you think is best for them. It’s really important to support people in making their own decisions when they are ready.

Remember that domestic abuse and abuse in close relationships is not just physical. It can also be emotional, sexual, digital, financial, and can involve neglect or stalking.

Simple ways to help:

  • In emergencies or if someone is in immediate danger, call 112 right away.
  • Believe the person and take their fears seriously. This is really important, regardless of your private opinion of the person or the one who is inflicting the abuse.
  • Listen without interrupting or judging.
  • Never blame those who experience abuse for what has happened. Abuse is never okay.
  • Never excuse those who inflict abuse.
  • Respect that people may not be ready to leave the relationship or that it may not be safe to do so. Do not force anyone to do what you think is best.
  • Go over the safety plan with them and how to secure their devices.
  • Help them review the resources that are available. Family justice centres are at Bjarkarhlíð in Reykjavík, Bjarmahlíð in Akureyri and Sigurhæðir in Selfoss they offer comprehensive services for victims of abuse.
  • Help them with practical tasks such as babysitting, giving rides, making appointments, and other such tasks.

You show support by staying calm, listening, believing, and not blaming them for what happened.

How should you ask whether someone is experiencing abuse?

If you suspect that someone that you know is being abused, the only way to be sure is to ask. It could be difficult, but people are most often glad to be able to talk about the situation.

The way you talk and listen to the person who has experienced abuse matters. Choose a calm and quiet moment. Let the person speak at their own pace. Don’t push them to share more than they are ready to.

If the person does not react the way you hoped, don’t take it personally. Let them know that you will always be there if they want to talk about it or if they need help in any way.

You can try asking:

  • It seems like you sometimes feel bad lately. Is everything okay with you?
  • I noticed you had bruises. How did you get them? Did someone do that to you?
  • I’ve noticed that you seem to be afraid of your partner (or the person who you suspect is inflicting the abuse). Am I right about that? Is everything okay?

Be ready to listen but don’t force anyone to talk if they are not ready.

If you want more advice, you can reach out to Bjarkarhlíð in Reykjavík or Aflið in Akureyri, which offer support to abuse victims’ loved ones.

Available support

See all support
Hús Aflins á Akureyri

Aflið in Akureyri

Aflið assists people who have suffered any form of abuse.


The Red Cross Helpline 1717 is a phone service and webchat for those who need someone to talk to in confidentiality. They are open 24 hours, and it's free to call.


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.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when somebody continually mistreats you emotionally. It is sometimes called psychological abuse. It is emotional abuse when someone threatens you or deliberately tries to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore you.

Manneskja situr í hjólastól. Hún snýr frá okkur og horfir upp í vindinn. Mikið og liðað hár sveiflast í vindinum.