What is Domestic Abuse?

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is persistent and controlling behaviour by a partner or ex-partner which causes physical, sexual and/or emotional harm. It often gets worse over time. It is very common. In most cases, it is experienced by women and children and is perpetrated by men.

  • Domestic abuse is not an isolated incident.
  • It isn't a fight or an argument.
  • There may be no bruises.
  • It is a pattern of dominating and isolating someone through fear and threats or undermining their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • It can happen if you live with your partner, or if you don't.
  • It can be perpetrated by a partner or an ex-partner.
  • It can happen if you have children, and if you don't.
  • It cuts across class, ethnic and social boundaries.
  • It often involves serious and sustained physical and sexual abuse which can cause injuries and lead to long-term health problems.
  • It can take the form of withholding money and finances, monitoring women and children's movements, restricting what they wear, who they see, where they go and what they say, on and offline.
  • It can be threatening to or distributing intimate images.
  • It can be manipulating or forcing someone to do something sexual that they don't want to.
  • It can involve stalking and isolating women from their friends and family.
  • It can involve physical violence.
  • Women (and their children) are sometimes killed by a partner or ex-partner.

It is about control, manipulation and humiliation.

The effects of domestic abuse are wide-ranging; much more than the stereotypical image of the bruised woman. Domestic abuse impacts on health, safety, prevents women and children being able to stay in their own home, limits their education and work opportunities – in short, there is no area of life into which domestic abuse doesn’t intrude.

A phrase commonly used is coercive control. This outlines the range of behavior and actions that an abuser may use to keep their partner “in line”, that fall outside of the common understanding that domestic abuse is solely violence-based. Find out more about coercive control.

Domestic abuse is about fear. We commissioned a report to look into this in more depth, find out more .

Children are affected by seeing or hearing the abuse or by being hurt themselves.

Women and children can recover from the effects of domestic abuse and move on with their lives.

The courts can sometimes require that domestic abuse perpetrators attend specialist programmes to learn how to stop their abusive behaviour.


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Staying Safe

If you need immediate help contact Women's Aid, the police domestic abuse liaison officer or your local social work office.

You can also phone the domestic abuse helpline on 0800 027 1234

 

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