Legal expert gives list of abusive relationship red flags

The 12 warning signs of an abusive relationship: Expert reveals why feeling ‘humiliated’ and losing control of your finances could be red flags

  • Associate at Bristol law firm Hannah Bridgwood gave us her 12 abuse red flags  
  • She explained that people were often in abusive relationship without noticing  
  • She gave advice on how to escape an abusive partner in a safe way for the family
  • Also advised on how to help friends who you suspected with abusive partners 

An expert has revealed the 12 red flags that could signal you are in an abusive relationship. 

Hannah Bridgwood, a family law expert at law firm Clarke Willmott, in Bristol, who has dealt with hundreds of cases involving abusive relationships, has shed light on what could qualify as coercive and abusive behaviour.  

Speaking to Femail, she also offered advice on how to leave an abusive relationship, and how to help your friends if you suspect their partner is abusive. 

A distraught woman on a black backdrop, stock picture. Hannah Bridgwood, an expert in family law gave her ten abusive relationship red flags

12 questions that could reveal signs of an abusive relationship

1. Has your partner physically hurt you, your children or a pet?

2. Has your partner threatened to kill you or themselves if you say you want to end the relationship?

3. Has your partner said that if you end relationship you will never see your children?

4. Are you made to do anything of a sexual nature that you do not want to?

5. Are you nervous or scared around your partner?

6. Are you told or made to feel that anything you do is not good enough and you are always wrong?

7. Do you feel that your partner is overly jealous and do they constantly accuse you of being unfaithful?

8. Are you discouraged from seeing family, friends or your GP either by your partner or because you are worried how your partner will react if they find out?

9. Are you embarrassed or humiliated regularly by your partner about your appearance, ideas and views in front of people?

10. Are you in control of your finances?

11. Are you prevented from doing the things you want to because you are worried about your partner’s reaction?

12. Do you feel your situation and your partner’s behaviour towards you is getting worse?

Sharing her insight, she said: ‘Believe it or not many people can be victims of coercive and controlling relationships for years – decades even – and not really know it.

‘But then there will be a flashpoint which makes you realise that, no, this is not okay. Often that happens when the behaviour switches from the partner to their children.’

Hannah explained there were a range of red flags that indicated one might be in an abusive relationship, and they could be very subtle. 

‘If for any reason your partner isn’t sharing everything, for example if they won’t let you access a joint bank account, then that’s a red flag,’ she said. 

Hannah Bridgwood is a family law expert at Clarke Willmott

‘Similarly if they can’t let you go out on your own, or are constantly putting you down and undermining your confidence, then you have a problem,’ she added. 

Hannah touched on how to help friends who you suspect are in abusive relationships, and said to deal with the person one-on-one first.  

‘If you truly believe your friend might be in an abusive relationship then don’t turn a blind eye. 

‘Speak to them alone and see if they open up about what is happening, even if it makes things awkward. 

‘I would urge people to go to the and research the wealth of resources they have to help you feel empowered to grasp the nettle and have those difficult conversations.’

Citing websites including Women’s Aid, she said: ‘Another great resource is an app called Bright Sky. This lets people keep notes of their experiences and gather evidence of the abuse. 

‘It also signposts local support services and has a questionnaire you can take to assess the level of abuse. 

‘Also bear in mind that coercive and controlling behaviour is classed as domestic abuse, so all the support and resources for those crimes are open to you too,’ she added. 

‘Local authorities, GP surgeries and other community health organisations are all trained to deal with these situations, so use those resources,’ she pointed out. 

Where to seek help 

  • Women’s Aid website ( 
  • Bright Sky app
  • Hestia (
  • Mankind Initiative (
  • GP and local authority charities

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