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Staying and feeling safe

This section contains information about staying and feeling safe in Plymouth.

Safety is a fundamental need for everyone, no matter where you live or what you do. Feeling safe and secure allows us to enjoy our lives and surroundings without fear.

Why safety matters

Protecting Your Loved Ones

Safety is not just about you; it's about the people you care about. By knowing how to identify and report issues like domestic abuse, child abuse, and adult neglect, you can help protect vulnerable individuals and ensure their well-being.

Your personal wellbeing

Feeling safe is essential for your mental and physical health. When you're aware of safe places in Plymouth and understand how to address anti-social behaviour, discrimination, and hate crimes, you can enjoy your surroundings with peace of mind.

Preventing exploitation

Modern slavery is an issue that affects vulnerable individuals. By understanding what modern slavery is and how to recognise it, you can play a role in preventing this injustice.

Explore the articles below to view information, advice and signposting to organisations and services that can help you.

What is abuse?

Knowing what abuse is helps us all recognise it when it happens.

  • Abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual or financial.   
  • The abuser can be a partner, ex-partner, family member, community leader or member, a friend, someone at work or a stranger.   
  • It can happen to anyone: an adult or a child, female or male.   
  • It can happen at home or in a public place like a community centre, school or work.   
  • It can be in person, or through technology and online.

It's ALL harmful

Below you will see some examples of abusive behaviour. Sometimes people experience one or more of these at once.

Abuse can happen to anyone, but we know these behaviours disproportionately affect women and girls.

Abuse in a public place

This can include:

  • Making sexually explicit comments or gestures in public - whether on the street, in a bar, on public transport or in another public place
  • Leering or unwanted staring
  • Sitting uncomfortably close on public transport
  • Unwanted questions about someone's sex life
  • Unwanted sexual attention or asking for sex
  • Upskirting (taking pictures or filming up someone's skirt without them knowing)
  • Flashing
  • Following someone
  • Stalking (a pattern of obsessive behaviour which can include sending unwanted presents, making unwanted communication, damaging property, and physical or sexual assault. This can be perpetrated by an ex-intimate partner, a stranger or anyone known to the victim)
  • Groping (unwanted sexual touching anywhere on the body, which could be sexual assault)
  • Spiking (when someone puts alcohol or drugs into another person's drink or their body without their knowledge and/or consent)

Abuse at work or in an education setting

This can include:

  • Inappropriate comments (including ones of a sexual nature), gestures or touching
  • Repeated pressure to go out on a date
  • Asking for sexual activity in exchange for promotion
  • Stalking

Sexual abuse

This can include:

  • Unwanted touching
  • Sexual assault (touching sexually without consent)
  • Getting someone to engage in sexual activity without their explicit consent
  • 'Stealthing' (removing a condom during sex without the other person knowing)
  • Choking, slapping or spitting on someone during sex without their consent
  • Assault by penetration (penetration of the vagina or anus using anything other than a penis without consent)
  • 'Sex for rent' (giving someone accommodation in exchange for sexual activity)
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Grooming someone for sex
  • Rape

Online abuse

This can include:

  • Making unwanted sexually explicit comments on social media
  • Sending unwanted sexual messages to someone
  • Cyberflashing (sending someone an explicit picture that they haven't asked for)
  • Putting pressure on someone to send nude pictures of themselves
  • Cyberstalking (the use of the internet and other technologies to harass or stalk another person online)
  • Image-based abuse, also known as "revenge porn" (posting sexually explicit images or videos of a person on the internet without their consent, typically by a former sexual partner)

Domestic abuse

This can include:

  • Emotional or psychological abuse (e.g. putting someone down, playing mind games, making them feel they're to blame for everything or that they're crazy - also known as gaslighting)
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour (e.g. controlling someone's finances, telling them who they can see, telling them what they can wear)
  • Stalking (this can occur within an ex-intimate partner setting, e.g. monitoring someone's phone, tracking their movements)
  • Economic abuse (e.g. coerced debt, controlling spending, bank accounts, investments, mortgages, benefit payments)
  • Violent or threatening behaviour (e.g. non-fatal strangulation)
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse (see above)
  • So-called 'honour'-based abuse (harmful things that are done in the name of a family's or community's so-called 'honour')
  • Forced marriage

Children and young people under the age of 16 can also be victims of domestic abuse if they see, hear or experience the effects of it and are related to or under parental responsibility of the victim or perpetrator.

Domestic abuse doesn't necessarily need to be between partners who live together, it could be between a child and parent or people living separately.

Additional forms of abuse

These can include:

  • Female genital mutilation
  • Modern slavery
  • Stalking


How to step in safely

Intervening doesn't have to be dramatic or confrontational. Even small acts of recognition and support can help stop abuse. Here are four simple ways to help you step in safely - just think STOP.

Say something

You can show your disapproval at what is going on for example, by not laughing and saying, 'I don't think that's funny'. Or you could be more direct if you feel it's safe to do so, by saying it's unacceptable and telling them to stop.

Tell someone

You could tell someone in charge, like the bar staff if you're in a pub or club, Human Resources (HR) if you're at work, or the train guard or bus driver if you're on public transport. You could also tell another member of the public or a passer-by and see if they're willing to help - working together can be a safer, more effective way to intervene. It is important to check in with the victim on who they want to tell, or if they want to call the police.

Offer support

You can ask the victim if they're OK. You could capture what's happening on your phone and ask if they want the footage to report the incident, and you could offer to help report it. You could also help others already giving support. If it's someone you know, check in with them when they are alone and offer to help or support them to report it if they want. If you think they might be in an abusive relationship, there is expert advice on what you can do and support available online or on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.

Provide a diversion

Sometimes what's best in the moment is creating a distraction, giving the person being targeted a chance to move away or allowing others to get help. You could strike up a conversation with the victim, e.g. ask for directions, or where the next stop is on the bus, or pretend you know them. If you're at work, you could make up an excuse to speak to them about an unrelated task. You could also try dropping something nearby or creating some other minor commotion.

Depending on the situation, where you are and who's involved, you can use just one or a combination of these tactics. By standing against all forms of abuse, and holding perpetrators accountable, we can create a society where women and girls are safe.

If you think somebody is in immediate danger, call 999.



Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is when a family member or someone you're in a relationship, with treats you in a way that harms you physically, emotionally or sexually.

View page (Go to Domestic abuse)

How to report child abuse or neglect

If you're worried about a child or young person or think they're being abused, even if you're unsure, call 01752 668000 or email

View page (Go to How to report child abuse or neglect)

How to report adult abuse or neglect

If you're worried an adult is being abused or neglected, even if you're unsure, please report it.

View page (Go to How to report adult abuse or neglect)

Safe Places in Plymouth

Safe Places is a scheme that helps people with learning disabilities if they feel anxious or they are faced with verbal abuse, bullying, or harassment when out in the community.

View page (Go to Safe Places in Plymouth)

Ask for ANI - help for domestic abuse victims

Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) is a codeword scheme that provides a safe, discreet and confidential way for victims of domestic abuse to access immediate help from their local pharmacy or Job Centre.

View page (Go to Ask for ANI - help for domestic abuse victims)

Anti-social behaviour

Anti-social behaviour is any behaviour that causes harassment, alarm or distress to a member of the public.

View page (Go to Anti-social behaviour)

Discrimination and hate crime

A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone's prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.

View page (Go to Discrimination and hate crime)

Missing persons

You do not have to wait 24 hours to report someone missing. If you think someone is in danger you can report them missing right away.

View page (Go to Missing persons)

Sexual violence

If you're the victim of rape or sexual assault, the police and other organisations are there to help.

View page (Go to Sexual violence)

Modern Slavery

Modern slavery is a serious crime. Victims are exploited, controlled or held captive and might be threatened or punished to stop them escaping or reporting the crime.

View page (Go to Modern Slavery)

Devon and Cornwall Police

Call 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger, or if the crime is happening right now. For a non-emergencies call 101.

View page (Go to Devon and Cornwall Police)

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