What is Domestic Abuse?

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Domestic Abuse is a pattern of behaviours used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.

Domestic abuse can also be referred to as domestic violence or sexual violence and includes human trafficking and modern slavery, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour’ violence.

Domestic abuse does not discriminate.  Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim – or perpetrator – of domestic abuse.  It can happen to people who are married, living together or who are dating.  It affects people of all backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic abuse includes behaviours that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want.  It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Many of these different forms of domestic violence/abuse can be occurring at any one time within the same intimate relationship.

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour 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.

Whilst we know that domestic abuse is also experienced by men, violence against women and girls (also called ‘gender-based violence’) is recognised separately as it is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, with significantly more women than men experiencing domestic abuse.  Many women experience a range of forms of domestic abuse without ever being physically abused.  Remember: non-physical forms of abuse can be as destructive and as undermining as physical violence.


Domestic abuse:

  • Will affect 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in their lifetime
  • Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year
  • Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police
  • Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)
  • Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2015)
  • In 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit responded to 1735 reports of possible Forced Marriages.

In addition, approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to commit suicide.

We use the Power & Control Wheel* to describe most accurately what occurs in an abusive relationship.

Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics an abusive partner uses to keep their victim in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviours, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence.  These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other more subtle methods of abuse.

*Although this Power & Control Wheel uses she/her pronouns for the victim and assumes a male perpetrator, we know that abuse can happen to people of any gender in any type of relationship.

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