What Is Domestic Abuse?
The Home Office 2021 definition of domestic violence and abuse now states:
Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected* to each other, and the behaviour is abusive.
Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following:
- physical or sexual abuse
- violent or threatening behaviour
- controlling or coercive behaviour
- economic abuse
- psychological, emotional or other abuse
Whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct does not matter.
*Personally connected definition: They are, or have been, married; civil partners; have agreed to marry one another; have entered into a civil partnership agreement; are or have been in an intimate personal relationship; they have or have had a parental relationship in relation to the same child; or are relatives.
Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. Click here for a Lincolnshire Police resource on coercive and controlling behaviour.
Associated Forms of Abuse. To find out more about the associated forms of abuse click on the icons below which will take you to sources of help and information’.
Why Does Domestic Abuse Happen?
All forms of domestic abuse come from the abuser’s desire for power and control over other family members or intimate partners. Although every situation is unique, there are common factors involved. The most important factor to remember is that the survivor is NOT to blame for the abuse.
What Are the Signs of Domestic Abuse?
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling, verbally threatening you, making you feel bad about yourself.
- Pressure tactics: threatening to withhold money, taking away your phone or car, threats to commit suicide or take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with their demands.
- Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
- Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being excessively jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
- Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.
- Threats: making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun, threatening to kill or harm you and the children or pets and people you care about.
- Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex, any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
- Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.
- LGBT community specific signs: threatening/outing partner/family member, ridiculing body parts or assaulting medically altered body parts.
Myths & Truths
Myth: Domestic abuse occurs only in low income families.
Truth Domestic abuse touches every group in society regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, occupation, or education.
Those with less money tend to utilise community agencies more, and are therefore more visible compared to those with money who often have more access to resources. It does not meet domestic abuse is more prevalent in lower income families.
Myth: If the victim didn’t like it, they would leave.
Truth: There are many reasons why a victim of abuse may not leave an abusive relationship. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is ‘not that bad’ or somehow they are responsible for the abuse. The victim is NEVER responsible for the abuse. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser.
It can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship. The abused person may fear what their abuser will do if they leave. The abuser may have made threats to harm the victim, the children or pets, or to end their own life if they leave. The most dangerous time for a victim is when they attempt to leave the relationship, or when the abuser discovers that they have made plans to leave. When the abuser senses they are losing control over their victim, they may increase or intensify their violence and abuse.
Often, people in situations of domestic abuse face significant practical barriers to leaving the abuser including a lack of money and housing options. They may not know where to turn for help, particularly if English is not their first language. If they are emotionally and financially dependent on their abuser, they may be very isolated.
A victim’s self-worth and confidence will have been steadily eroded over time. They may not believe they will manage on their own. They may feel exhausted and feel they have no way out. They may feel ashamed of what has happened and believe the abuse is their fault. Often abusers will ‘gaslight’ their victim causing them to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity. Once the abuser has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.
People from different cultures can find it particularly difficult to leave an abusive relationship as they worry this would bring shame on both themselves and their family. They may feel like they are betraying their community if they leave.
Victims will often harbour hope that the abuser will change and the abuse will stop, especially earlier on in the relationship. They remember the good times at the start of the relationship and hope they will return.
Myth: Victims provoke the abuser to be violent and abusive.
Truth: The use of violence and abuse is never justifiable or acceptable. There is NO EXCUSE for domestic abuse
Myth: Perpetrators of domestic abuse “lose control” of their temper. “I saw red and just lost it”.
Truth: Domestic abuse is not loss of control; it is the exertion of power and control. Perpetrators will use ‘anger as an excuse for the abuse. Anger and rage are emotional responses. Everyone feels anger at some point, but not everyone uses violence and abuse. It’s a conscious choice! Generally, perpetrators of domestic abuse do not abuse their work colleagues, or people on the streets. Their abuse is targeted towards their victim/s. They make sure that others are unaware of the abuse; they abuse behind closed doors and make sure no one talks about it. If they assault physically, perpetrators often inflict injuries on parts of the body that are covered by clothing, or inflict injuries that rarely leave obvious marks.
Myth: Men cannot be abused.
Truth: Men can be, and are, abused. 1/6 men will experience domestic abuse.
Myth: Alcohol and drugs are to blame
Truth: Although many abusers also abuse alcohol and/or drugs, this is not the underlying cause of the abuse. If alcohol and drugs caused abuse then everyone who drinks alcohol and used drugs would be violent and abusive and this is not the case. Intoxication is however an aggravating factor, it may make existing abuse worse, or be a catalyst for an attack, but it does not cause or excuse domestic abuse.
Myth: Stress or Mental ill health cause domestic abuse.
Truth: Similar to drugs and alcohol, stress and mental health may play a part in triggering incidences of abuse, but they are not an underlying cause of abuse and certainly not an excuse for violence and abuse. Stress and mental ill health affects hundreds of thousands of adults every year but most of these adults are not perpetrators of domestic abuse.
Myth: Domestic abuse always involves physical violence
Truth: Domestic abuse may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which include physical violence. Many people assume that they are not experiencing Domestic Abuse, if they have never been physically assaulted. However, this is not true. You don’t need bruises to be abused! Usually the most damaging effect of domestic abuse is the emotional impact that abuse has on a person.
Myth: Domestic abuse occurs in only a small percentage of relationships.
Truth: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their life
Myth: Domestic abuse is a private matter, you shouldn’t get involved.
Truth: Domestic abuse is everyone’s business. Domestic abuse is against the law; it is a criminal offence. Click here if you are worried about someone else who may be experiencing domestic abuse.
Here are just a few statistics to demonstrate how serious domestic abuse is:
- 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, with 57% subjected to repeat victimisation
- 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner
- 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime
- One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
- Jealous and controlling behaviour, harassment and stalking, sexual abuse and physical abuse are noted to be more prevalent in the LGBT+ community according to SafeLives insight report 2018
For further information on different forms of abuse click here https://stopdomesticabuse.uk/domestic-abuse-types