What is Domestic Abuse? 

Domestic abuse is physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’. Domestic abuse may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently ‘violent’
Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle.

Domestic abuse can also take place in lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender relationships, it can involve ex-partners and other family members, including children.

What is the official definition of domestic violence?

The Home Office defines domestic violence 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:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

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 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 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.

Why does it happen?

People choose to be abusive. Some abusers say they were drunk or had taken drugs. But alcohol and drugs do not cause domestic abuse, although they can make it worse. Some people blame life stresses and/or say that the other person was ‘asking for it’ or ‘deserved it’ This is not true. These are just excuses. The person it is happening to is never to blame.

An abuser may use manipulation and various tactics to control both you and the relationship. This may make it hard to recognise what is happening. Some of these situations might be familiar:


  • Separating you from friends and family
  • Threatening to hurt the people you care about
  • Restricting your access to money
  • Undermining what you do to make you feel stupid and incapable of handling your own life
  • Moving things around so you can’t find them and making you believe that you’d done it and are absent-minded
  • Keeping you in the house with no unaccompanied access to the outside world
  • Forcing you to have sex on demand
  • Saying sorry, offering you hope that things will change, and then repeating the abuse again
  • Talking about you negatively to others or threatening to do so
  • Hitting, punching, kicking, restraining, or strangling you
  • Threatening you with guns, knives or fists without actually touching you
  • Shooting, stabbing or hitting a wall or furniture near you
  • Withholding food, care or addictive substances

It is not OK. All of the above are abusive behaviours and may be used to gain power and control over you.

It is not easy to escape abuse but we understand how difficult and complicated it is and are here to offer advice and support. Contact us on our confidential helpline, 020 8317 8273,