What is Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is physical, sexual, and psychological (emotional) or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family relationship. Some of these types of behaviour are obviously violent such as hitting. Others are more subtle such as constantly putting someone down. Sometimes a partner or close relative or person close to you such as a brother, uncle or son can behave in a way that is frightening or makes you feel depressed and bad about yourself. How they behave to make you feel that way may vary:

  • they may threaten you or humiliate you in front of others, damage your belongings or property
  • they may control what you do, for example by controlling how you use money
  • they may follow you or visit you without your consent
  • they may use their culture, religion or personal problems as an excuse for their behaviour

Or, they may physically assault you:

  • they may push, bully, slap, kick, punch or otherwise cause serious injury to you
  • they may force you to have sex when you do not want to.

This kind of behaviour is domestic violence.

It may make you feel:

  • unable to talk to family or friends
  • depressed, suicidal, ashamed or guilty and can make you lose your confidence
  • that there is no way out of this relationship
  • that you deserve to be treated in this way
  • worried about how your children are affected by your situation

Does domestic violence only happen in certain cultures or classes?
Research shows that domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and carried out by men. Any woman can experience domestic violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle. Domestic violence can also take place in lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender relationships, and can involve other family members, including children.

What is the official definition of domestic violence?
The Government defines domestic violence as “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


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.

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