According to the United Nations Statistics Division, “at least 119 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, 125 have laws on sexual harassment and 52 have laws on marital rape”. While this is an accomplishment to be applauded, how much can legal frameworks do to help tackle the ‘invisible’ violence?

The fact that it is very difficult to find statistics on the cases of domestic and gender based violence that never make it to justice is evidence in itself that a lot of such incidents remain completely unreported which in turn makes the victims “invisible” and even more vulnerable. Noticing and acknowledging potential indicators of an abusive relationship is the first step to tackling it. To this end, during the course of the trainings organised in the framework of “Project FIRST - Networks of first points of contact for victims of domestic and gender-based violence” in the UK, the participants and the panel discussed the importance of recognizing some key indicators of domestic or gender based violence as a first step in identifying victims and potentially help save their lives. The AIRE Centre team, led by Legal Project Manager Markella Papadouli, Solicitor and Legal Project Manager Saadiya Chaudary and Legal Project Assistant Ralitsa Peykova, encouraged the participants to think of situations in their everyday lives, either at work or on a personal level, which might serve as “indicators” or “red flags” of domestic violence and were then called one by one to complete them on a whiteboard.

Ensuring the early discovery of domestic and gender-based violence and providing appropriate support to victims is one of the core objectives of all four partnership countries and as such, indicators will be circulated across the EU through our transnational and ongoing multidisciplinary cooperation.

Participants recognised that not all indicators listed below will be present in every domestic violence situation and that the presence or absence of any of the indicators will not necessarily be proof of domestic or gender-based violence.

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We believe that a wide-ranging list of potential indicators of domestic violence will help both practitioners working in the field as well as those who might not have any exposure to working with victims of domestic violence, to become more alert of situations in which domestic violence might have occurred.

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The AIRE Centre would like to invite professionals from different sectors to think about suspicious situations in their working environment, which have called or should have called for immediate action against domestic and gender based violence, and share it with us. The AIRE Centre and the FIRST Project Network wish to begin an ongoing dialogue to make sure that non specialised professionals who may come in contact with a potential victim of domestic and gender based violence are aware of such indicators and feel confident to help the victim make the FIRST step to reaching assistance and protection.  

The following list should be treated as indicative rather than definitive:



Client does not want to give phone number/contact details.

Unable to make plans.

Client does not have her own phone/phone number.

Money restrictions (might point to financial control).

Parent/partner refuses to give information for necessary financial claims.

When new relationship equals new personality.

The client keeps missing pre-arranged meetings/appointments.

Seeks constant third-party consent.

Someone else has the client’s documents e.g: passport, medical details etc.

Looking for permission to speak

Client appears fearful or overly eager to please.

No access to GP or healthcare

In the case of children in schools, a disproportionate reaction and fear of punishment being communicated to parents.

Sudden unexplained illness.

Dad dominating mum and not letting her speak.

Sudden and irrational destruction of property.

Lack of eye contact.

Presence change on social media.


When client/student always shows up with parent/partner to meetings.

Client is unwilling to go into detail.

Sudden unexplained illness.

No primary healthcare.

Sudden and irrational destruction of property.