It can be hard to admit to abusive behaviour. But by accepting this behaviour is wrong, you’re taking responsibility and choosing to change. This in turn makes our whole society better, not just for women and girls.
How you can change
Put yourself in their place
- Always treat women and girls as your equal, not as people to be controlled or treated like their feelings don’t matter.
- Accept that women and girls don’t appreciate acts you might not recognise as wrong, e.g. making sexually explicit comments towards them in the street. At best, it’s embarrassing, and at worst, it can be intimidating or frightening.
- Give women and girls space on the street, or on a train or bus. Women are often on constant alert in public spaces, so this can help them feel safer.
- Don’t assume that you’re entitled to sex - you’re not. Having sex without consent is sexual assault or rape. Consent can only be given with a clear and enthusiastic ‘yes’. Anything else – including silence – is a ‘no’ that must be respected.
- Don’t think porn is how sex should be. Just as films are not real life, porn is not real sex. It often shows damaging behaviour towards women, without mutual consent or communication.
Look at the people around you
Are your mates or family a bad influence? Don’t get drawn into abusive behaviour, just to be ‘one of the boys'.
It can feel difficult to go against the crowd, but it’s the right thing to do. In many situations you won’t be the only one thinking something’s wrong – but it takes one person to take the lead and speak up. Be that person.
Bring them up to be respectful of both men and women and see them as equal in society.
As a parent, you’re a role model. Your behaviour and attitudes shape who they become. If you have children, teach them to respect one another, stand up against harmful behaviour, assert personal boundaries and explain the importance of consent. You can do your bit to help them grow up in a better world.
Getting professional help
If you’re making a loved one feel scared or controlled, there are services to help you, in confidence and without judgement.
Professional help can be really valuable in helping you identify what’s behind the behaviour and how you can make a change for the better.
The Respect Phoneline is a confidential helpline, email and webchat service for people behaving abusively in their relationships. The service supports men and women who are using abuse in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, from anywhere in the UK.
Respect Phoneline: Freephone 0808 802 4040
Email [email protected].
A word about terminology
Throughout this website we talk about abuse towards women and girls, because we know these behaviours disproportionately affect them, but the support offered here is available to all victims of any of these harms .
I felt that I had somewhere to go and I wasn’t alone. I had someone who didn’t judge but told me directly that what I had done wasn’t right and made me face it. I appreciated having a safe space to tell someone what was happening.*
*Testimonials are anonymous to protect identities, but all are based on real experiences