This Valentine’s Day, the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership reminds people that some behaviors used in relationships are not love and many are illegal.

A phrase often used by abusers is “it’s because I love you,” but the behaviors below are not part of a healthy relationship. The list below does not include all types of abusive behavior, but if you recognize that you are using or encountering these behaviors, supporting information is included below.

1) Gas lighting

It happens over time, sometimes months or years, and it’s when someone makes you doubt yourself and your mindset. It can be little things like telling you what they want for dinner, then saying later that they said something else, and they’ll tell you that you must have forgotten. It is a form of control.

2) Repeatedly putting yourself down

Persistent insults, teasing or comments that make you feel bad are emotional abuse.

3) Preventing you from seeing your friends or family

If your partner isolates you from the people you love, telling you that you can’t see your friends or family for some reason, this is another form of control.

They might listen to your calls or not let you visit your friends and family and refuse to let them visit your house. They will often come up with reasons such as “they’re no good for you” or “we don’t need anyone else”.

4) Deprive yourself of basic needs

A partner might deprive you of certain food or clothing, they might even prevent you from accessing medical help, but this is all illegal. This type of abuse is often used against people who need help in their daily activities because of a disability or poor health. It may start out as being caring, but may end up holding back things you need, like medication or help with personal care.

5) Control your finances

Some abusers insist on controlling all the money in the relationship, even the victim’s salary or benefits – this is economic abuse. Sometimes they will provide an “allowance” to buy food or items for the children, but this is deliberately not enough and then they will punish the victim for not being able to meet the budget.

Often this is done while they are spending large sums of money on themselves. Some abusers will pressure someone for a loan, but the money must be returned to the abuser or they will take credit cards in the victim’s name without their knowledge.

6) Take away your freedom

This can happen when one partner takes charge of aspects of the other person’s daily life, such as where they go, when they can go, and even when they can sleep. They may also accompany you to certain places such as doctor’s appointments and insist on speaking for you.

7) Threats

If a partner threatens you to have power over you, it’s illegal. Common threats include reporting you to social services and that your children will be taken away from you, or threatening to “disclose” a same-sex partner to co-workers and family when they want this information to be kept private. .

8) Share explicit images of you

New laws surrounding “revenge porn” prohibit anyone from sharing intimate photos of you with anyone, whether online or offline.

9) Scare you

Abuse isn’t always physical violence, but if they do something that scares you, they’re committing an offence.

This may include angry gestures, shouting at you, threatening you, destroying your property, or using their physical size to intimidate you.

10) Damage your property

This includes when the abuser breaks your items such as your phone. Not only can this be part of coercive control, but it is also a criminal offence.

11) Forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do

A partner may force you to do things you don’t want to do, such as committing crimes, preventing you from telling anyone about your relationship, or even forcing you to have sex.

12) Commit sexual acts

It is illegal to perform sexual acts on anyone, including your partner, while you sleep.

13) Tracking devices

Using tracking devices on mobile phones or setting up spyware on laptops is illegal. You may not even know the software was installed.


Domestic violence or abuse can happen to anyone, and help is available through the national 24-hour free helpline run by Refuge by calling 0808 2000 247.

Local support is available through Peterborough Women’s Aid by calling 01733 894964 or visiting http://www.peterboroughwomensaid.co.uk/.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, visit https://galop.org.uk/ to receive more personalized support.

Similarly, men can call the free Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or visit https://www.mankind.org.uk/.