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About domestic abuse

Domestic abuse isn’t just physical.  It includes controlling, coercive, threatening and degrading behaviour, usually by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.

It can also include financial control, belittling someone, isolating them from their friends and family, making threats to children or pets, controlling who they see or what they do or sexual violence.  Living with domestic abuse can cause long term emotional as well as physical harm.

Despite the fact that domestic abuse is common, it is under-reported. Some people may not be aware that what is happening to them is domestic abuse and some people do not tell anyone because they feel ashamed or that in some way it is their fault but this is never the case. If you are being abused, you are not alone, and it is not your fault.

Who is affected?

“I didn’t know where to begin but working with my IDAS Worker changed all that. I regained my strength and faith in myself and was able to leave my abuser.”

What are the different types of domestic abuse?

Coercive control is designed to instill fear. It is a pattern of behaviour that includes threats, humiliation and intimidation to harm, punish, or frighten someone and it is now a criminal offence.

Coercive control is also to make someone dependent on the abuser.

Examples of coercive control include:

  • Isolating you from your friends and family.
  • Forcing you to take part in criminal or illegal activity.
  • Monitoring your time and controlling where you can go and who you can see.
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food.
  • Making threats, such as threatening to harm themselves.

Emotional or psychological abuse is the most common form of abuse and can cause lasting harm.

Psychological and emotional abuse is also when someone deliberately used words or acts in a way to hurt, frighten, belittle or undermine a person. The abuser may also try and confuse their victim and make them feel as though they are losing their mind. This is known as “Gaslighting”.

Some examples of psychological or emotional abuse include:

  • Calling you names or belittling you.
  • Intentionally frightening you.
  • Threatening to take your children away or report you to Social Care Services.
  • Accusing you of flirting or being unfaithful.
  • Blaming you for the abuse or calling you abusive.
  • Controlling what you eat.

Physical abuse is any type of physical violence or force, including pushing or shoving.

Physical abuse can escalate over time and can result in serious injury and even death.  Every 3 days a woman is murdered by her partner or ex-partner.

Examples of physical abuse include:

  • Kicking.
  • Pushing, shoving or pinching.
  • Slapping, hitting or punching.
  • Hair pulling.
  • Rough ‘play fighting’.
  • Strangulation.
  • Spitting.
  • Throwing objects at you.
  • Forcing you to take illegal drugs or preventing you from taking essential medication.
Sexual abuse is any sexual contact where the contact is unwanted, or the person is unable to give consent.  Any sexual activity should be between people who actively consent to it. If you don’t consent or if you are unable to consent, this is abuse. Sexual abuse or violence is another way that abusers exert control and many people who are subjected to other forms of domestic abuse, also suffer sexual abuse. Examples of sexual abuse include:
  • Pressuring or coercing you into performing sexual acts or forcing you to watch pornography.
  • Calling you things like a slut or a whore.
  • Forcing or pressuring you to have sex with others.
  • Guilt-tripping you into sex.
  • Withholding or controlling your access to contraception.
  • Sharing intimate images of you without consent.
It is relatively easy now for perpetrators to use online or digital tools to check up on their partner.  Examples of digital or online abuse include:
  • Installing spyware on your phone.
  • Using Alexa / Google Home as listening in devices.
  • Watching your social media accounts to see who you are in touch with.
  • Setting up tracking devices on your vehicle.
  • Checking your phone.
  • Sharing intimate images.
  • Controlling your internet banking.

If you are concerned about digital abuse, change your passwords, turn off locator services and / or speak to an advisor about developing a safety plan.

Abusive partners exert control and often do so by controlling a person’s ability to have financial or economic autonomy.

Financial abuse is now recognised as a form of abuse, whether there is any other emotional, physical or sexual abuse or not.

Some examples of financial abuse may include:

  • Preventing you or forcing you to go to work.
  • Insisting that you take out loans or other debts in your name.
  • Checking your bank statements or insisting that you account for every penny you spend.
  • Stealing money from you.

Stalking is a pattern of incidents and unwanted attention that make you feel scared.

It may be from a current or ex-partner, someone who wants to be romantically involved with you, or someone you know as a neighbour, work colleague or friend.

Each incident in isolation can appear to be innocent and even romantic; for example, someone may send you flowers or a love letter, but if this is unwanted and is part of a persistent pattern of behaviour that you find upsetting, then it is defined as stalking.

It is important to trust your instincts if this is happening to you; if it doesn’t feel right or makes you feel scared, then you should report it to the Police.

Stalking is a criminal offence and examples of stalking include:

  • Regularly receiving unwanted. communication such as texts, calls and emails.
  • Regularly receiving unwanted gifts.
  • Being followed by the person.
  • Regularly turning up uninvited or loitering around your home or place of work.
  • Monitoring your use of the internet and other electronic communication.
  • Checking your phone and monitoring your texts and calls.
  • Identity theft.
  • Interfering with, or damaging your personal property.

If you are worried or concerned you are being stalked you can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or National Stalking Advisory Service on 020 3866 4107

This is when you face physical, emotional or psychological pressure to marry someone you don’t want to.

The pressure to marry usually comes from family members and sometimes both people are pressured or forced to marry. Forced marriage is illegal.

Forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage when both people have a choice of whether they marry or not.

Forced marriage is a form of domestic abuse and abusers, usually family members, may use the following tactics:

  • Threats to kill you if you don’t marry a certain person.
  • Tell you that your family will be poor if you don’t marry the person they want you to.
  • Tell you that you will bring shame upon your family if you don’t marry a specified person.
  • Tell you that this marriage is approved of by your religious leaders.
  • If you are gay, your family may tell you that this is a sin and that you need to marry a person of the opposite sex.

Forced marriages are often organised by parents, family members or religious leaders. Those who do not comply with the forced marriage, can face so-called ‘honour’ abuse which can result in murder.

“Honour” abuse is an incident or crime which has been committed to allegedly protect or defend the honour of the family or community.  The perpetrators of the abuse justify their abuse by claiming that the person has brought dishonour or shame to the family, and it is often used to excuse a range of violent acts against women and girls. Examples of “honour” abuse include:
  • Restricting your movements, only being allowed out with members of the family or being followed.
  • Being forced to marry a member of the opposite sex because you are gay.
  • Being isolated from your friends/family because they are a ‘bad influence’ on you.
  • Being threatened when you tell your family you want to divorce your partner.
  • Being pressured to move abroad because you have become ‘too westernised’.
  • Being forced to have an abortion because the pregnancy is not within marriage.
  • Being denied access to your passport or other documentation.

Some members of the LGBTQ community can also face harassment and abuse from family members when they come out as gay or let people know that they are trans.

FGM means cutting, piercing, removing or sewing closed any part of a girl’s or woman’s genitals with no medical reason.

FGM usually involves parents or other relatives performing the violation or giving permission for someone else to do so and can therefore be considered a form of domestic abuse. 

FGM is illegal, has no health benefits and can often result in long-term health problems.

To read more about FGM visit our sexual violence website.

Find out more

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What to do if you are worried that a neighbour, friend, or family member is experiencing domestic abuse.
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