What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviours used to establish control over another person, including but not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse. This includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Forced Marriage.

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: a continuing 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. Learn more about coercive control and recent changes to the law.

Stalking: A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim. Learn more.

So called ‘honour’ based violence: is often carried out by several members of a family including distant relatives. The victim may be subjected to a variety of different abusive behaviours ranging in severity. So called ‘honour’ based violence is sometimes referred to as ‘Izzat’ and is often justified by the perpetrators as being necessary as the victim has brought shame on the family.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Forced Marriage: A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent to marriage and pressure or abuse is used.


Who does it affect?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, social background, gender, religion, sexual identity, race, culture, ethnicity or disability.
It happens in all kinds of relationships: heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Anyone could be a perpetrator, a victim, a survivor of domestic abuse. It doesn’t just happen to women – men can be victims too, whether their partner is a man or a woman. It also has an impact on friends and family of the person who is affected by domestic violence.

The effects of domestic abuse are significant for all those who experience it.


What causes domestic violence?

Domestic violence may start when one partner feels the need to control and dominate the other and there is an imbalance of power between the partners.

Some abusers may want to control their partners because of many different reasons: low self-esteem, difficulties in dealing with anger and other emotions, extreme jealousy, traditional beliefs, personality or psychological disorder or because they feel inferior to the other partner in education and socioeconomic background.

A partner’s domination may take the form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Although women are most often the victim of domestic violence, the gender roles can and are reversed sometimes. Alcohol and drugs may contribute to violent behaviour.

No cause of domestic violence justifies the actions of the abuser, nor should it be used as a rationale for their behaviour.

Domestic violence is a crime and we all have a role to play in ending it.


Further reading

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