What is Domestic Abuse

The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional 

Controlling behaviour

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

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 is not a legal definition. Definition of domestic violence and abuse: Guide for local areas. To help local areas consider how the extension to the definition of domestic violence and abuse may impact on their services, the Home Office, in partnership with Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) has produced a guide for local areas. A guide for Wales is currently being developed and will be published in due course.

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.

Domestic abuse and young people

Young people and teenagers can be victims of domestic violence and abuse. Over half of women aged between 18-21 years old have reported experiencing violence at least once from an abusive partner, boyfriend or husband, according to a 2009 survey by Refuge and YouGov. That year, it was also reported that more than one in four teenagers aged between 13-17 years old who had been in relationships experienced some form of violence from their partner. Evidence suggests that social media sites have a huge influence on domestic abuse. Social media platforms provide another way for an abusive person to keep tabs on their partner. Social media also encourages acts such as revenge pornography, which involves humiliating a partner by posting intimate photos of them on the web without their consent and with intent to cause them distress. This is a prime example of domestic abuse causing mental and psychological trauma and as such, is now a criminal offence under the new Revenge Pornography Law, which came into effect on 13 April 2015. According to the NSPCC, rates of emotional abuse are far higher than those of physical abuse. Emotional and psychological domestic abuse is still a crime

Stalking and Harassment

Stalking can be defined as persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered and harassed. Stalking and harassment includes behaviour that happens two or more times, directed at or towards you by another person, which causes you to feel alarmed or distressed or to fear that violence might be used against you. What makes the problem particularly hard to cope with is that it can go on for a long period of time, making you feel constantly anxious and afraid. Sometimes the problem can build up slowly and it can take a while for you to realise that you are caught up in an ongoing campaign of abuse. The problem isn’t always ‘physical’ – you may suffer psychologically as well. Social media and the internet can be used for stalking and harassment, and ‘cyber-stalking’ or online threats can be just as intimidating.