What if my ex-partner is abusive?

Last updated: 06/11/2023

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is when one person in a relationship tries to dominate and control the other person. It is when your partner makes you feel frightened or stops you making your own decisions. Abuse can be verbal, psychological, emotional or physical.

It can include any of the following:

  • Kicking, hitting, punching
  • Being called names
  • Being pressurised to have unwanted sex
  • Not allowing you to see friends and family
  • Watching your movements or listening in to your phone calls
  • Making you think you are crazy
  • Threatening to kill you
  • Controlling money
  • Smashing household goods
  • Stalking.

Violent behaviour or abuse is never justified.

Keep safe

If you are in imminent danger call the police, from a landline or mobile, on 999. 

You can also report any incidence of violence or abuse to your local police station, or you can call 101 for non-emergency reports.

The police can put you in touch with a domestic abuse liaison officer, someone who specialises in dealing with this kind of situation.

If there’s sufficient evidence, the police can arrest your partner. Evidence of the abuse can come from witnesses, text messages, medical records and previous reports you have given to the police.

The police will send a report to the Procurator Fiscal. A Procurator Fiscal (Fiscal or PF) decides whether your ex-partner should be prosecuted. A court of law will then decide if your partner should stay in custody. You can contact Scottish Woman’s Aid or the Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline for more information and support.

Have a safety plan

If your partner or ex-partner is abusive have a safety plan for you and your child in case you have to leave home in a hurry.

  • Put emergency contact numbers on your mobile phone.
  • Have a bag ready to grab with some clothes, your child’s favourite toy, identification, driving licence, medication, birth certificates, passports, some money and benefit paperwork.
  • Agree with a friend or relative that you can go to them or
  • Contact Scottish Women’s Aid or the Domestic Abuse Helpline.


Legal help

A solicitor can obtain a legal order to help protect you from abuse. You may be able to get Legal Assistance to help pay for this service.



An interdict is a court order that can bar your partner from threatening or assaulting you. It can prevent a partner from coming near your home, work or your child’s school. Your solicitor can also ask for powers of arrest to be attached to the interdict. This means if the interdict is broken, the police can arrest your partner without a warrant. Powers of arrest can be for a period of up to three years.

A court may also issue a domestic abuse interdict which if broken becomes a criminal offence. This could carry a prison sentence of up to five years, a fine or both.

In an emergency, a court can provide a temporary interdict within 24 to 48 hours.


Non-harassment orders

A non-harassment order is a court order that prevents your partner, their family or another person from behaving in a way that causes you distress or fear. A non-harassment order can be obtained through the courts. If a non-harassment order is broken, this becomes a criminal offence.


Exclusion orders

An exclusion order is a court order that suspends the right of a married person, a civil partner or a cohabiting partner to live in the family home. In other words it prevents your partner from entering your home. An exclusion order can be asked for if you or your children have been harmed or threatened with harm.


Speak to a solicitor or Scottish Women’s Aid for information and support to obtain a court order.

Sources of help

Scottish Women’s Aid

Scottish Women’s Aid has lots of useful information on its website for women affected by domestic abuse.

There are branches of Women’s Aid across the country providing safe refuges for women and children, as well as practical and emotional support to allow you to recover and rebuild your life.

Find your local Women’s Aid here.



Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline

If you feel you or your children are at risk, or simply want someone to talk to about your experience with domestic abuse, you can ring the Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline Scotland.

The helpline is open to anyone, regardless of gender.

It’s open 24 hours for phone, webchat and email support, and there’s a translation service to speak to you in your preferred language. The advisers will be able to direct you to other support services that can help you.

Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline Scotland: 0800 027 1234

Men's Advice Line

Respect is a service for men who are experiencing domestic abuse. 

Call or use the online live chat and email service on the website.

Respect men’s advice line: 0808 8010 327 Mon – Fri, 9am – 8pm

Website: Respect

Fund to Leave

Women experiencing domestic abuse will be able to receive up to £1,000 from a new pilot fund to pay for the essentials they need when leaving a relationship with an abusive partner. The grants will be available until March 2024.

Women can apply to the Fund to Leave by contacting a participating Women’s Aid group directly, or contacting Scottish Women’s Aid.

More information about Fund to Leave can be found here