What is Domestic Abuse?

The Government’s definition of domestic violence is as follows: ‘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.’

Domestic Violence is usually about one person’s desire to control their partners, even if they are not aware of this themselves.


There are different forms of abuse, but if your relationship leaves you feeling scared, intimidated or controlled, its possible you’re in an abusive relationship. Sadly if it has happened once, it is likely to happen again.


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

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

“This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.”

Emotional abuse involves actions designed to destroy a person’s sense of self-respect or self-worth. It includes verbal insults and criticisms to humiliate and belittle the victim. It is often used as a method to gain control over the victim.

Financial abuse can involve a partner denying the victim access to money or other resources. Refusing to allow a spouse to work or get an education. Often seen where an abuser forces the victim into isolation by limiting when they can communicate with family and friends. Isolation makes it more difficult for a victim to have any form of financial freedom.

Psychological abuse is a broad term that includes acts, threats of acts or coercive tactics to cause someone fear and trauma. If there has been previous physical or sexual abuse in the relationship, any further threat of abuse is considered psychological violence. It can include humiliation, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information, diminishing or embarrassing the victim, isolating the victim from friends and family.

Physical abuse involves injuring, disabling or killing the victim. Physical abuse can be performed with a weapon or restraint or merely using body size/strength to harm another person.
Physical violence can include burning, biting, choking, grabbing, pinching, punching, pushing, throwing, scratching, shoving, shaking, or slapping.

Sexual abuse not only includes rape and sexual assault, but it also includes demeaning behaviour like exposing a partner’s body to friends, forcing a partner into posing for pornography, secretly videotaping a partner while engaging in sex, or forcing a partner to have sex without using protection. Reproductive coercion, which is forcing a partner into having an abortion is a form of domestic sexual abuse.
Another form of domestic sexual abuse is sexually assaulting someone who is unable to refuse due to disability, illness, intimidation or the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

There are three main categories of sexual abuse:

  • Using physical force to compel someone to have sex against their will, whether the act is completed or not.
  • Attempting or having sex with someone who is unable to understand the nature of the act or unable to decline participation or is unable to communicate their unwillingness.
  • Abusive sexual contact of any kind.

Stalking involves a person becomes fixated or obsessed with another.

Stalking is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. Some examples of stalking are:

Regularly giving unwanted gifts
Making unwanted communication
Damaging property
Repeatedly following you or spying on you

Taken in isolation, some of the behaviours may seem like small acts, but together they make up a consistent pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting. It’s important to know that stalking is a criminal offence and because of this, if you go to the Police they will take it seriously.  

Stalking was made a criminal offence in England and Wales in November 2012. Two new offences were introduced: Stalking, and Stalking where there is a fear of violence. The changes were made under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012