Domestic Abuse

What is Domestic Abuse

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Domestic Abuse is defined by the government as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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.  This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • Physical.
  • Sexual.
  • Financial.
  • Emotional/Psychological
  • Coercive Control

This definition also includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. Domestic abuse occurs across society, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, wealth, and geography. Domestic violence and abuse can also include harassment and staking.

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 freedom.

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 everyday behaviour.

Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident, and should instead be seen as a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour through which the abuser seeks power over their victim. Typically the abuse involves a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour, which tends to get worse over time. The abuse can begin at any time, in the first year, or after many years of life together. It may begin, continue, or escalate after a couple have separated and may take place not only in the home but also in a public place.

Domestic Abuse is a crime which can affect women, men and children. It can happen in short or long-term relationships, with ex-partners or family members. It is not acceptable in any circumstance. Victims of Domestic Abuse can feel very isolated, and incidents of abuse often go unreported because the victim may feel trapped or alone.

If this is happening to you, you are not alone. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse and violence in their lifetime. You may feel ashamed, scared, isolated, confused, and afraid not to be believed or that the abuse will get worse if you report it.

You are not to blame!  Do not suffer in silence, as there are people who can help

If you’re worried a friend or family member is being abused, let them know you’ve noticed something is wrong. They might not be ready to talk but try to find quiet times when they can talk if they choose to. If someone confides in you that they’re suffering domestic abuse:

  • listen, and take care not to blame them
  • acknowledge it takes strength to talk to someone about experiencing abuse

  • give them time to talk, but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to.

  • support them and encourage them to express their feelings, and allow them to make their own decisions

  • don’t tell them to leave the relationship if they’re not ready.

  • be ready to provide information on organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse

If you are worried that a friend, neighbour, loved one or you could be  a victim of domestic abuse then you can call You First on 0800 234 6266 or email

If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, you should always call 999.

Other Types of Abuse

Honour Based Violence

Honour’ based violence is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour or the family and/or community. It can include emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse and is a reaction to what is perceived as immoral behaviour that brings shame/izzat/namous/sharaf on the family or community.

Forced Marriage

In a forced marriage the victim(s) is/are pressured into marrying someone against their will. The victim may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed to do so. It is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on

any religious or cultural basis. It can affect men and women.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25 November 2008. The Act enables family courts to make Forced Marriage Protection Orders to protect someone from being forced into marriage. An order can

also be made to protect someone who has already been forced into marriage, to help remove them from the situation. The Act sends out a strong signal that forced marriage will not be tolerated. Those who fail to obey an order

may be found in contempt of court and sent to prison for up to two years.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision or female genital cutting, is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons". It is considered by many to be an extreme form of gender based violence as it has no medical necessity. It has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and since 2003 anybody taking a child to be "cut" outside the UK faces up to 14 years in prison. 

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, causing harm or distress to an older person. It can take many forms such as financial, psychological, sexual, physical and domestic abuse with many victims suffering multiple forms. Isolation, communication and the complex care needs of both the victim and perpetrator are some of the factors that prevent this being reported.

This type of abuse may have gone on for years and there may be additional pressure to stay for fear of upsetting family dynamics and victims being less likely to identify their situation as abuse. On average, older victims experience abuse for twice as long before seeking help as those aged under 61 years and nearly half have a disability.

Specific risk factors for older people, including the development of health needs, retirement from work (resulting in increased contact), stress associated with caring roles and social or geographical isolation may place them at increased risk from domestic abuse. As we age our ability to recover from both mental and physical abuse can be adversely affected, and the impact of domestic abuse can be particularly profound for those who may be reliant on a partner to provide care and financial support.

Child on Parent Violence

Child on Parent Violence (CPV) or Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) is any behaviour used by a young person to control, dominate or coerce parents.  It is intended to threaten and intimidate and puts family safety at risk.  Whilst it is normal for adolescents to demonstrate healthy anger, conflict and frustration drawing their transition from childhood to adulthood, anger should not be confused with violence.  Violence is about a range of behaviours including non-physical acts aimed at achieving ongoing control over another person by instilling fear. 

Most abused parents have difficulty admitting even to themselves that their child is abusive. They feel ashamed, disappointed and humiliated and blame themselves for the situation, which has led to this imbalance of power. There is also an element of denial where parents convince themselves that their son or daughter’s behaviour is part of normal adolescent conduct.

LGBTQ+ Community

Domestic abuse in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community is a serious issue that is underreported. There are many parallels between LGBTQ+ people's experience of domestic abuse and that of heterosexual women, including the impact on the abused partner and the types of abuses such as emotional bullying, physical aggression, threats to harm the victim or other loved ones, social isolation, control of finances, extreme jealousy. However, there are a number of aspects that are unique to LGBTQ+ domestic abuse.unique to LGBTQ+ domestic abuse.

'Outing' as a method of control

The abuser may threaten to ‘out' the victim to friends, family, religious communities, co-workers, and others as a method of control.. The abuser may use the close-knit dynamic of the gay and lesbian community and the lack of support for LGBTQ+ people outside the community to further pressure the victim into compliance. This can be especially true for people in their first same-sex relationship who may not have had much contact with the LGBT community before the relationship began.

Abuse associated with sexual orientation or gender identity

For many people, their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes associated with the abuse so that they blame the abuse on being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. So they may feel that they are experiencing this abuse because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or that if they weren't lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender that they wouldn't be experiencing it. This can therefore fuel feelings of internalised homo/bi/transphobia.

Keeping Safe

Safety Planning

The most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is when they are considering leaving, or have just left. Anyone thinking about this is advised to call one of the support services for help and advice.

A safety plan is vital whether you intend to stay or to leave and should include the following:

  • Arrange where you might go if you have to leave urgently.
  • Find places where you can quickly and safely use the telephone. 

  • If you have children, teach them how to dial 999 and make up a code word that you can use when you need help.

  • Carry a discreet list of telephone numbers for support services and friends. 

  • Try to save money so that you have bus or taxi fares in an emergency.

  • Get an extra set of keys for the house and car and keep these in a safe place, with  money and anything else you may need should you have to leave quickly.

  • Talk to your children and let them know it is not their fault.

  • Talk to trusted friends, relatives, your doctor or nurse about how you feel.

  • Consider opening a savings account in your name.

  • Always try to take your children with you or make arrangements to leave them somewhere safe if this is not possible.

  • Make plans for pets, if you are unable to take them with you.

  • Consider visiting the Law Centre or a solicitor to discuss what options are available to you.

  • Try to do things which would get you out of the house, such as walking your dog, putting out the rubbish or going to the shops to practice how you would leave.

  • Consider leaving a bag with a trusted friend or relative containing the items you would need if you had to leave urgently. Also consider who may lend you money in an emergency.

Top tips to keep digital safe

Technology is an integral part of our lives and while we know it can provide abusive people with tools and opportunities to control, track and abuse, it can also be an important source of support and safety information for victims of abuse. 

Consider your digital footprint – update security and restrict visibility of the tech in your life.

Be password savvy – Change user names and passwords, even if you don’t think that the accounts have been compromised.

Check security settings - Update security settings on social media accounts so that only the people who you want to connect with can see your posts, photos and information.

Be aware of location settings - Lots of apps and software record information about your geographical location, and this information could be misused by someone with access to your accounts/devices.Check which apps are using location settings and then turn off any that you don’t need.

Tracking apps - apps that you have installed by yourself, which another person then accesses information from. Consider turning off tracking apps when not inuse e.g. ‘find my friends/phone/tablet’, GPS fitness trackers, sat nav.

Joint accounts - Consider any connected or joint accounts that may have been installed on more than one device and could give someone access to your information or devices. This could include accounts for iTunes, app stores, Google Play store, eBay, Amazon, Kindle and others.

Secure your home WiFi network -  A person may be able to access your devices via the WiFi network, which will be accessible without being inside your home. Change the login details and password so that your network cannot be accessed without your knowledge.

Be camera aware - Cameras and devices can be accessed remotely or activated by apps. Cover the webcam on your computer/tablet when not in use.