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.

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. 

We have been exploring with a range of partners the varied forms that domestic abuse can take, including Professor Rachel Pain from Durham University’s Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, who recently published a report  in conjunction with SWA. Professor Pain’s work examines the parallels between domestic abuse and terrorism.

It’s important to understand that domestic abuse is not an isolated incident – not a fight or an argument. There may be no bruises and a pattern of dominating and isolating someone through fear and threats or undermining their self-confidence and self-esteem. But it often involves serious and sustained physical and sexual abuse which can cause injuries and lead to long-term health problems. Women (and their children) are sometimes killed by a partner or ex-partner.

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.

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.

Nearest SWA Group

Find your nearest Women's Aid group

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


Sign up

Keep up to date with what's happening

Sign up today

Get Involved

There are many ways you can get involved whether you give your time, skills or money. Together, we can make a difference.


Social Feed

View Feed