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,
  • threatening behaviour,
  • violence,
  • abuse. 

That happens between those aged 16 years 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:

  • 'Honour’ based violence. 
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM).
  • Forced marriage. 

Domestic abuse occurs across society. It is 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, 
  • intimidation,
  • 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. It should be seen as a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour. Through which the abuser seeks power over their victim. The abuse usually 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. It can take place in the home and in a public places.

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 yourself could be a victim of domestic abuse. Then call You First on 0800 234 6266 or email youfirstiow@theyoutrust.org.uk

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. It 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. It 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 because it has no medical necessity. It has been illegal in the UK since 1985. 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. It causes harm or distress to an older person. It can take many forms such as financial, psychological, sexual, physical and domestic abuse. 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. There may be additional pressure to stay for fear of upsetting family dynamics. The victims are usually 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 which may place them at increased risk from domestic abuse include:

  • the development of health needs, 
  • retirement from work which resulting in increased contact, 
  • stress associated with caring roles
  • social or geographical isolation 

As we age our ability to recover from both mental and physical abuse can be adversely affected. The impact of domestic abuse can be particularly profound for those who may be reliant on a partner to provide care and financial support.

Adolescent to Parent Violence

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.

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) have produced the following leaflet on Adolescent to Parent Violence  - APV leaflet

LGBTQ+ Community

Domestic abuse in the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community is a serious issue that is under reported. 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.

'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.

Impact of Domestic Abuse on Children

Children can witness domestic abuse in a variety of way. They may be in the same room and get caught in the middle of an incident trying to make the violence stop. They may be in another room but can still hear it. They may see physical injuries after the event. Children can also be affected by a parent’s controlling and coercive treatment of the other parent. For example not being allowed to visit their grandmother or not being allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.

Living in a home where domestic abuse happens can have a serious impact on a child or young person’s mental health as well as their behaviour. This can last into adulthood. One in seven children will be affected by this at some point in their lives.

Children’s responses to the trauma of witnessing can vary according to a number of factors. These factors include age, sex and stage of development. Each child will respond differently to trauma. Some children will be more resilient making the effects more difficult to recognise.  The abuse may also interfere with children’s social relationships. They may feel unable to invite friends over for shame, fear or concern about what their friends may see. Or they may be stopped from having friends over for this reason. They may feel guilty and think that the abuse is there fault. They may feel powerless to make it stop. There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement as children want to stay at home to protect the parent who is being abused. Worry, anxiety, disturbed sleep and a lack of concentration can all effect their school work. Children may also feel angry, guilty. Insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused. They may have ambivalent feelings towards both parents for the situation they are in.

If you are a parent and recognise this may be your child please seek support. You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent. If you ask for help you may worry that your child will be taken away from you if you report the abuse. However by doing this you are acting responsibly to seek help and you are never to blame for someone else’s abuse.

Parents, schools and health professionals can refer to You First on 0800 234 6266 or via email on youfirstiow@theyoutrust.org.uk.  Our children’s and young person’s worker is experienced in working with children and young people. They can support them wherever the child and parent is most comfortable.