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In the UK, domestic abuse is categorised by any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive 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. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • psychological
  • sexual
  • financial

This definition includes honour-based abuse and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically, just one encounter counts as abuse, and it can be an ongoing pattern of behaviour. However, the one constant element of domestic abuse is the abuser's consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the victim.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality or social background. If you are suffering from physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse, or are being threatened, intimidated or stalked by a current or previous partner or close family member, it’s likely you’re a victim of domestic abuse.

You may be feeling frightened, isolated, ashamed or confused. If you have children it may be that they too are suffering, whether they witness abuse or not.

Remember, you are not to blame for what is happening. You are not alone, and above all you do not have to suffer in silence

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Controlling behaviour

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts performed by an abuser. These acts are designed to make their victim subordinate and/or dependent.  This might include but is not limited to:

  • isolating the victim from sources of support including family and friends
  • exploiting the victim's resources and capacities for personal gain
  • depriving the victim of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape
  • regulating the victim's everyday behaviour

Coercive behaviour

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used by the abuser to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Physical abuse and sexual abuse

Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack.

Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence.

Emotional or psychological abuse

You do not need to have bruises or broken bones to be abused. Emotional abuse can often be minimised or overlooked – even by the person being abused.

Emotional abuse can include shouting, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviour also fall under emotional abuse.

Honour-based abuse

A small minority of both women and men within the UK experience violence and threats at the hands of their family or community in order to protect their perceived ‘honour’. (Family members are defined as mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparents, whether directly related, in-laws or step-family.)

The warning signs of honour-based abuse are:

  • forms of communication being severed between victim and friends
  • withdrawal from education or workplace
  • criticism of victim for ‘Western’ adoption of clothing or make-up
  • restrictions in leaving the house or chaperoning outside the home
  • onset of depression or suicidal tendencies in an otherwise happy person


Call on the freephone, 24- hour, National Domestic Abuse Helpline

0800 247 2000

Click here for more information


Call on the National Respect Men's helpline:

0808 8010327

Click here for more information