Domestic Abuse

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  

It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct. 
Personally connected: 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. 

This can include forced marriage, so-called ‘honour based abuse’ and domestic abuse in the LGBT+ community.

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.

Does Domestic Abuse Only Happen In Certain Cultures or Classes?


Domestic abuse can occur in anyone’s family/partner relationship, regardless of culture, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or social class.
Abusers can be partners (male or female), former partners or any other family member.

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: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
  • 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 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.
  • 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: Using someone’s “dead name”, threatening/outing partner/family member, ridiculing body parts or assaulting medically altered body parts.


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

Talk with one of our Specialist Domestic Abuse Workers

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