What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic violence and abuse takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour by a partner or carer, male or female. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual and can include forced marriage and ‘honour based’ crimes. Domestic abuse occurs across society regardless of age, gender, religion, race, sexuality, disability or social class.

Research shows that domestic abuse is very common, affecting one in four women in their lifetime with partners or ex-partners being responsible for the deaths of two women each week.

Within an abusive relationship you may experience:

  • Emotional abuse – constant  criticism, name calling or being constantly undermined.
  • Physical abuse –   being pushed, hit, punched, slapped or kicked.
  • Sexual abuse – sexual degradation or being made to have sex when you are unwilling.
  • Psychological abuse – being told what to do, what to wear or being isolated from family and friends.
  • Financial abuse –  having your money taken from you, being made to take out loans in your name or not having access to finances to support yourself or your children.

Through the use of this behaviour the abuser seeks power and control over their victim. Abuse can begin at anytime within a relationship – it could happen in the first year or after many years together. Abuse is common during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby and can disrupt mother and baby  bonding. Typically, over time the abuse gets worse and escalates further as victims leave or attempt to leave relationships.


Many people remain in abusive relationships for a long time. The clip below offers some explanations for why this may happen.