Kent’s Domestic Abuse services warn of toxic Valentine’s Day ‘love bombing’

Man puts hand on worried woman's shoulder

Specialist Domestic Abuse Services across Kent are urging people to be aware of abusive behaviour in relationships this Valentine’s Day.

The signs of domestic abuse are not always visible and seemingly loving gestures can in fact be tactics of coercive and controlling behaviour.

‘Love bombing’ is one such manipulation tactic used by abusers to overwhelm a partner with affection, charm, attention, compliments, and declarations of love to gain power and control over them. The behaviour is intense, excessive, and obsessive – with partners bombarded with messages, gifts, and promises, and pleas to commit early in a relationship.

The abuser uses constant communication to create a sense of dependency and trust. Once they’ve gained their partner’s trust, they use emotional manipulation such as gaslighting, humiliation and insults to control what they do, who they see and how they act. This is followed by more gushes of affection, compliments, and gifts. The victim is left feeling confused, guilty, isolated, and powerless.

Leah* was in an abusive relationship for 25 years, feeling captive by the emotional rollercoaster of her partner’s behaviour.

A hand touches a concerned young woman on the shoulder

To access specialist Domestic Abuse support please call Victim Support 0808 168 9111 or visit

She recalls: “He was charming, manipulative. I soon become isolated from family. He would turn up while I was out with friends. I felt so embarrassed and trapped, it became such an issue when I would go out.

“I left so many times, but he would sweet-talk me and I’d go back. It was the mix of him being so sorry, really wanting us back. He also knew how much taking our wedding vows meant to me, he’d use that to convince me to come back.”

Kent County Council member Roger Gough’s so important that all of us, family, friends and colleagues, stay vigilant for and report any signs of abuse – particularly at this time of year

Roger Gough Kent County Council Leader

Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council, added: “Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse. We shouldn't assume there is a typical victim, but we can learn about the warning signs to help us identify abuse and provide support to protect people. This is why it’s so important that all of us, family, friends and colleagues, stay vigilant for and report any signs of abuse – particularly at this time of year.”

Domestic abuse can take many forms including coercion, economic control, stalking, sexual assault, violence and threats and Valentine’s is a good time to check if a relationship is healthy.

Red flags to look out for:

  • Intensity - things get serious quickly, they want to see you all the time.
  • Jealousy - they want to know where you are going and who with, they cut off your contact with friends, are paranoid, make accusations.
  • Control - who you see, what you wear, they check your phone and internet history.
  • Isolation - they prevent you from seeing friends or being social, block access to travel or your phone.
  • Criticism - nit-picking, name-calling, cruel jokes, ridiculing your values or beliefs, make you feel worthless.
  • Sabotage - Making things go wrong for you, picking fights, hide your things, turn up unexpectedly, spread lies.
  • Blame - say things like “You made me....” or “If you hadn’t...”
  • Anger - outbursts and fights, threaten and intimidate you.
  • History - past relationship breakdowns are always the other person’s fault.

If you have concerns about your relationship or worried about someone, Kent Domestic Abuse Services offer a range of support including safety planning, refuge and counselling – you are not alone.

To access specialist Domestic Abuse support please call Victim Support 0808 168 9111 or visit

In an emergency, call the police on 999 (if you can’t speak, cough, or tap the handset then press 55 on your phone – the police will know it’s an emergency).

Anyone can use ‘Clare’s Law’ to check with the police if a current or former partner, or partner of a family member or friend, has been violent or abusive in a previous relationship. Contact Kent Police by calling 101 or visiting your local police station.

Kent residents and businesses can raise awareness of domestic abuse by taking part in the ‘Know, See, Speak Out’ campaign. Visit for details.

Domestic abuse facts

  • 2.4 million people in England and Wales experience domestic abuse every year (Office for National Statistics).
  • Last year, 5% of adults experienced domestic abuse (Office for National Statistics).
  • In 2020/21 there were 4 domestic abuse linked deaths a week in England and Wales (Office for National Statistics).
  • 1 in 5 under-18s will have lived with domestic abuse at some point in their childhood (Radford et al, NSPCC report, 2018).
  • Since 2017, Kent County Council has worked with partners to commission the Kent Integrated Domestic Abuse Contract (KIDAS) which provides help for survivors across both community and accommodation-based support and continues to work with partners to build, develop and maximise the support available to those experiencing abuse. The integrated approach of KIDAS means victims can access support wherever they are in Kent and has ensured a consistent response for victims and survivors during the pandemic.
  • A central non-emergencies helpline and 24/7 live chat for Kent & Medway is coordinated by Victim Support, with localised helplines delivered by Oasis Domestic Abuse Service (East Kent & Medway), Look Ahead (West Kent) and Clarion Housing Group (North and South Kent).