What is domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, irrespective of their age, gender, sexuality, social class, race, religion, their lifestyle or where they live. The terms ‘domestic violence’ and ‘domestic abuse’ may both be used and can be interchangeable when used in definitions. Domestic abuse may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently 'violent'.

The Government defines domestic violence as "Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality." This includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as so called 'honour killings'.

From April 2013 the new Government definition includes “'Any incident or pattern of incidents of controllingcoercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality” 

Swindon Women’s Aid welcomes the extension to the definition to include young people aged 16 years and over. It acknowledges that young people can also experience domestic abuse in relationships and that you do not have to be living with someone to be in an abusive relationship.

We also welcome the inclusion of “controlling and coercive behaviour” into the new definition. 'Controlling’ behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence 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.”

All forms of domestic abuse - psychological, economic, emotional, sexual and physical - come from the abuser's desire for power and control over the other person. The abuser often believes they have the right to dominate and control the person.

Although every situation is unique, there are common factors or warning signs involved.  These can include:

  • Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening
  • Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
  • Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
  • Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
  • Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
  • Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned text or emailed you, embarrassing you in public.
  • Threats: making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, threatening to hurt your pets, threatening to kill or harm you or your children or other family members. Wielding weapons at you e.g. knife or a gun
  • Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don't want to have sex. Forcing you to have sex with other people, taking photographs or making videos of you without your consent
  • Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.
  • Denial: saying the abuse doesn't happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.

Domestic abuse may comprise a number of different behaviours and consequences, so there is no single criminal offence of “domestic abuse or domestic violence”.  However, being assaulted, sexually abused, held against your will, having property or belongings damaged, being threatened or harassed by a partner or family member is a crime.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse you can call Swindon Women’s Aid in confidence. We have a helpline that is staffed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We can provide free advice, information and support. Call 01793 610610.

Remember in an emergency always call 999.

PDF icon What is Domestic Abuse Leaflet1.9 MB