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 is very common and cuts across class, ethnic and social boundaries. Domestic abuse usually takes the form of controlling behaviour which gets worse over time. Physical violence and threats may be used to maintain control, but domestic abuse does not have to include physical violence; it may take the following forms:

  • PHYSICAL ABUSE  (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviours and threats with knives or otherweapons)
  • EMOTIONAL ABUSE (destructive criticism, verbal abuse, insults, threats, degradation and being isolated from friends and family)
  • SEXUAL ABUSE (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape)
  • ECONOMIC ABUSE (withholding money, preventing you from getting/keeping a job, threatening you with homelessness, making you solely responsible for all finances)
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE (such as, threats, checking up on you by monitoring your calls/emails/texts, mind games, preventing you from going out alone and other types of controlling behaviour)

We recognise that domestic abuse is not usually an isolated incident – it is a pattern of behaviour. The cycle continues over and over and may help to explain why people stay in abusive relationships. The diagram below explains this:


Domestic abuse can increase in intensity and frequency at specific points in a woman’s life, for example, during pregnancy. Our staff also know about domestic abuse within the LGBTI community and the experiences and concerns of LGBTI people.


Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is very rarely a one-off incident.

“If it were between countries we would call it a war
If it were a disease we would call it an epidemic
If it were an oil spill we would call it a disaster
But it is happening to women and it’s just an everyday affair
It’s violence against women” 

- Michael Kaufman , Founder of the White Ribbon Campaign