Woman sitting in window
26 January 23

What is domestic abuse?

There are many types of domestic abuse.

Defining Domestic Abuse

Women’s Aid define domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse.
  • Physical or sexual abuse.
  • Financial or economic abuse.
  • Harassment and stalking.
  • Online or digital abuse.

Examples of the abuse types

Physical Abuse

  • Being kicked, punched, pinched, slapped, dragged, scratched, choked, bitten, pushed, stabbed.
  • Use or threats of use of ‘weapons’ including knives and irons
  • Being scalded, burnt  or poisoned
  • Objects being thrown including food, drinks, cutlery
  • Violence against family members or pets
  • Causing you physical harm by denying access to medical aids or equipment
  • Harming you whilst performing ‘care’ duties (especially relevant for disabled victims) including force feeding, withdrawal of medicine or over-medication

Emotional Abuse

Psychological abuse involves the regular and deliberate use of a range of words and non-physical actions used with the purpose to manipulate, hurt, weaken or frighten a person mentally and emotionally; and/or distort, confuse or influence a person’s thoughts and actions within their everyday lives, changing their sense.

Coercive Control

Coercive control 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.

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
  • Depriving you access to support services, such as medical services
  • Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
  • Controlling your finances
  • Making threats or intimidating you

Honour Based Abuse

Honour Based Abuse can take many forms, including child marriage, virginity testing, enforced abortion, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, as well as physical, sexual and economic abuse and coercive control. Honour Based Abuse is often thought of as a ‘cultural’, ‘traditional’ or ‘religious’ problem. It can affect people of all ages, but often begins early in the family home.

It can lead to a deeply embedded form of coercive control, built on expectations about acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Control is often established without overt violence against the victim. For example, family members may threaten to kill themselves or ostracise the victim.
Perpetrators are often partners or ex-partners, or family members.

Economic Abuse

Controlling finances, stealing money, coercing someone into debt,  restricting/ exploit/sabotaging their partner’s access to money and other resources, such as food, clothing, transportation and a place to live.

Harassment and Stalking – Stalking involves a person becomes fixated or obsessed with another.
Stalking is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. Some examples of stalking are:

  • Regularly giving unwanted gifts
  • Making unwanted communication
  • Damaging property
  • Repeatedly following you or spying on you
  • Threats

Taken in isolation, some of the behaviours may seem like small acts, but together they make up a consistent pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting. It’s important to know that stalking is a criminal offence and because of this, if you go to the police they will take it seriously.  

Tech Abuse

Online platforms are increasingly used to perpetrate domestic abuse.

Online domestic abuse can include behaviours such as monitoring of social media profiles or emails, abuse over social media such as Facebook or Twitter, sharing intimate photos or videos without your consent, using GPS locators or spyware.

Sexual abuse

Examples of sexual abuse are:

  • Rape
  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Blackmail or threats unless you commit sexual acts
  • Sharing images of you with other people or online
  • Demanding sex
  • Threatening to share images of you
  • Calling you names such as slut and whore