What is domestic abuse

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

If you are worried that a friend, neighbour, loved one or yourself is or may be a victim of domestic abuse, or even if something feels off and you aren't sure, call Paragon on 0800 234 6266 or email paragoniow@theyoutrust.org.uk.

Parents, schools, and health professionals can also refer to Paragon. 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 are most comfortable.

Impact of domestic abuse on children

Children are also victims of domestic abuse. 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. Examples include 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 it at some point in their lives.

Children’s responses to the trauma of witnessing domestic abuse 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 because they feel ashamed, fear, or concern about what their friends might see. Or they may be stopped from having friends over for this reason. They may feel guilty and think that the abuse is their fault. They may feel powerless to stop it.

There can be an impact on school attendance and achievement because children may want to stay at home to protect the parent who is being abused. Worry, anxiety, disturbed sleep, and a lack of concentration can affect their school work.

Children may also feel angry, guilty. Insecure, alone, frightened, powerless or confused. They may feel they cannot trust either parent because of the situation they are in.

If you are a parent and recognise these may be your child's experiences, seek help now. You are never to blame for someone else’s abuse. You may feel that you will be blamed for failing as a parent, and if you ask for help, you worry that your child will be taken away from you. However, by reporting domestic abuse and getting help, you are acting responsibly. 

What domestic abuse is

The government defines domestic abuse as any incident or pattern of incidents of:

  • controlling
  • coercive
  • threatening behaviour
  • violence
  • abuse.

It happens between those aged 16 years or over, regardless of gender or sexuality, who are or have been intimate partners or family members.

This can be in the form of:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • economic
  • emotional/psychological
  • coercive control.

This definition also includes honour-based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), and forced marriage. Domestic violence may include harassment and stalking, and abuse can happen to anyone by anyone.

It happens regardless of: 

  • age
  • gender
  • race
  • sexuality
  • socio-economic demographics (social 'class')
  • geography. 

About abusive behaviours

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and dependent. This is often achieved 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
  • regulating their freedom.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts that are used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim everyday behaviour, such as:

  • assault
  • threats
  • humiliation
  • intimidation
  • other abuse.

If this is happening to you or someone you know, it must stop now!

Victims of domestic abuse can feel very isolated, and incidents of abuse often go unreported because the victim may feel trapped or alone.

When, where, and who of abuse

Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-time incident. It is a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour, where the abuser seeks power over their victim. And the abuse usually worsens over time.


Abuse can begin at anytime. It can start immediately or after many years together. It may even begin, continue, or escalate after a couple have separated.


It can happen anywhere. It can take place in the home or in public places.


Domestic abuse is a crime which can affect women, men and children. Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be an abuser. It can happen in short or long-term relationships, with ex-partners, or family members. It is not acceptable in any circumstance.

If this is happening to you, you are not alone. One in four women and one in six men experience domestic abuse and violence in their lifetime. You may feel ashamed, scared, isolated, and confused it is happening to you.

You are not to blame! 

And you might be afraid you won't be believed or that the abuse will get worse if you report it.

Do not suffer in silence; there are people who can help.

How you can help stop abuse

If you’re worried that 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:

  • do listen, don't blame them, and don't defend the abuser
  • do acknowledge it takes strength to talk to someone about experiencing abuse
  • do give them time to talk, but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to
  • do 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
  • do 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 Paragon on 0800 234 6266 or email paragoniow@theyoutrust.org.uk.

Other types of abuse

Honour-based violence

'Honour' violence is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect, correct, or defend the honour of either the family, community, or both. It is a form of unlawful, restorative justice. It can include emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse. It is a reaction to what is perceived as acts of immoral behaviour that brings shame (izzat, namus, sharaf) on the family or community. It may be done to preserve or restore a person's honour, integrity, or moral standing ('virtue'). Visit the Metropolitan Police page about honour-based abuse for more information.

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 both women and men.

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 message 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) is illegal and 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.

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. While it is normal for adolescents to demonstrate healthy anger, conflict, and frustration during their transition from childhood to adulthood, manipulation and threats are inappropriate behaviours. 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, devastated, and humiliated. They might 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 a leaflet on adolescent to parent violence.

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 abuse so that they blame the abuse on being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 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 they wouldn't be experiencing it. This can worsen or create feelings of internalised homo/bi/transphobia.