What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can take many forms, and if we are to achieve our vision of every employer taking action on domestic abuse, it is important that it is first properly recognised and understood.

We successfully called for there to be a statutory definition of domestic abuse. Although we recognise that a simplistic description may fail to completely encompass the dynamics of power and control, and the risk that control represents, the Domestic Abuse Bill outlines domestic abuse comprehensively:

  • Domestic abuse is complex. It can go unidentified by agencies, families and friends, and even by those who are experiencing it

  • Domestic abuse does not only occur between couples. It can also involve wider family members, including parental abuse by an adolescent or grown child. It can exist between older siblings, or the wider extended family in elder or honour-based abuse.

  • Domestic abuse is not gender-specific. It can occur regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

  • Domestic abuse can take many forms. It can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, economic and emotional forms of abuse.

  • Domestic abuse involves many different acts and behaviours. These include physical violence, manipulation, isolation, control, and use of threats and humiliation which harm, frighten or punish. It can be seen in any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse.

Types of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse does not always involve violence. Every act of domestic abuse counts, and must be stopped. To achieve this, it is important that all forms of domestic abuse are acknowledged and addressed, including those that can be hardest to identify:

  • 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 a person.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or are concerned about someone you know, Find Help.


Video produced by Vodafone Foundation