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What is Domestic Abuse and how

to spot the signs

The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

(a) physical or sexual abuse;

(b) violent or threatening behaviour;

(c) controlling or coercive behaviour;

(d) economic abuse;

(e) psychological, emotional or other abuse; and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.


This definition also includes ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

The changes to the definition of domestic abuse raise awareness that young people in the 16 to 17 years age group can also be victims of domestic violence and abuse. By including this age group the government hopes to encourage young people to come forward and get the support they need, through a helpline or specialist service.

Image by Claudia Wolff

So what exactly does this mean and how do i know if it's happening to me?

Most people will identify domestic abuse as acts of physical and sexual violence that place within an intimate, or family, relationship.

However, some types of behaviour are far more subtle, but equally as damaging, both psychologically and for your self-esteem.  You may not even recognise the signs, but there are many different ways that people can do this.  It may be a partner, close relative, brother, uncle or even a son that can make you feel scared, depressed and low. 

Trust your instinct, if something feels wrong, then it’s important to do something about it. Tell someone you trust. If you feel comfortable to do so, then call us. You can do this any time and don’t need to give us your details if you don’t want to. Although anything you tell us is confidential.

Typical signs of domestic abuse:


Has someone close to you:

  • Threatened or belittled you, perhaps in front of other people

  • Isolated you from friends or family

  • Prevented you from going out to work and having access to your own money

  • Damaged your belongings or property

  • Controlled what you do, or have access to

  • Followed or visited you without your permission / insisted on accompanying you wherever you go

  • Blamed their culture, religion or personal problems as an excuse for their behaviour towards you

  • Pushed, bullied, slapped, kicked, punched or seriously hurt you

  • Forced you to have sex when you don’t want to, or with other people

  • Forced you to make decisions you don’t agree with (personal, physical, financial, legal, or perhaps about a family member)

  • Threatened you and made you fear for your own safety and that of your children

Do you ever feel?

  • Frightened by your partner/family member

  • Physically hurt or emotionally drained

  • Lonely and isolated with no self confidence

  • Depressed / suicidal

  • Ashamed, guilty & unworthy

  • That there’s no way out of your relationship and you deserve what’s happening to you

  • Worried about how your children will be affected by your situation and what other people will say

What is Coercive control?

Coercive control is now an offence and is defined as:

When a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared.

The following types of behaviour are common examples of coercive control:

  • isolating you from your friends and family

  • controlling how much money you have and how you spend it

  • monitoring your activities and your movements

  • repeatedly putting you down, calling you names or telling you that you are worthless

  • threatening to harm or kill you or your child

  • threatening to publish information about you or to report you to the police

  • damaging your property or household goods

  • forcing you to take part in criminal activity or child abuse


Some of the behaviours in this list can be other offences as well as coercive control, so your abuser can be arrested for more than one offence for the same behaviour.  For example, if your abuser broke your phone as part of their coercive control then they could be arrested and charged for coercive control and the offence of criminal damage.

Your abuser will be guilty of the offence of coercive control if;

  1. They are personally connected to you, and

  2. Their behaviour has had a serious effect on you, and

  3. Your abuser knew or ought to have known that their behaviour would have a serious effect on you.

What to expect coming into refuge

What items should I bring

Worried about someone else?

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