What is domestic abuse? 

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What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can be a one-off incident or a pattern of incidents. It is not limited to physical violence. Behaviour is abusive if it consists of any of the following:  

  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Violent or threatening behaviour
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
  • Forced marriage
  • Crimes in the name of “honour”
  • Stalking
  • Prostitution and trafficking
  • Sexual exploitation

Examples of abusive behaviour can include: 

  • Psychological: intimidation - insults - criticising - shaming - or threatening your children or pets.
  • Financial: controlling access to money - building up debts in your name
  • Sexual: rape - sexual insults - refusal to practice safe sex
  • Physical: not limited to hitting, but using objects - restraining - suffocation - starving - bruising - biting
  • Emotional: calling you stupid or useless, eroding your independence, stopping you from seeing family or friends.
  • Coercive Control: using a pattern of behaviour to exert power and control - a separate criminal offence. 

Domestic abuse can happen between two people who are personally connected - for example, abuse can come from:  

  • someone you have (or have had) a relationship with
  • a family member
  • adolescent child to parent
  • adult child to parent
  • a carer

Domestic abuse can affect anyone

Although most domestic abuse is carried out by men against women, men can also suffer abuse by women, and domestic violence is equally common in same-sex relationships. It happens amongst older people and people with disabilities. 


Domestic abuse is defined as taking place between adults, but this abuse also harms children and can have a long-term impact on their emotional and mental wellbeing, and behaviour. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 recognises children as victims in their own right. 

If you are worried about abuse against children or young people, contact children's safeguarding (opens in new window) immediately.

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Are you experiencing domestic abuse?

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, it is important to remember that it is not your fault, and that you do not have to live through it in silence and on your own. You are entitled to live your life free from fear. Go to our page on where to get help for people experiencing domestic abuse for details on the many people and organisations whom you can turn to for help and advice.