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What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is 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:

• Psychological
• Physical
• Sexual
• Financial
• Emotional

This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so-called ‘honour’ based abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage. Domestic abuse occurs across society, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, wealth, and geography.

Coercive control

Coercive control is an offence that came into force on 29 December 2015. It has been reported in 95% of domestic abuse cases.

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.

Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident, and should instead be seen as a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour through which the abuser seeks power over their victim, often escalating over time. Domestic abuse can start and occur in a relationship at any time, including after a couple has separated. It may take place not only in the home but also in a public place.

You can read the full guidance on the coercive control law from the CPS here.

Stalking and harassment

Stalking and harassment is unwanted behaviour and attention that is repeated and causes someone distress or alarm. Stalking must be taken seriously, and research suggests it has been a factor in 94% of domestic homicides. It includes someone following a person, contacting or attempting to contact a person by any means, monitoring a person’s use of the internet, email, or other forms of digital communication, interfering with a person’s property, and watching or spying on a person.

You can find out more about support and services available for victims of domestic abuse and stalking harassment on the website here.

Further Reading

For tools to use with victims, including the DASH and S-DASH risk assessments, click here.

We need your help to continue our work reducing the risk of domestic abuse. Find out more about how you can get involved!