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What is domestic abuse?

Unfortunately we’ve all heard of domestic abuse – but what exactly is it?

Many people think that domestic abuse relates to acts of actual, physical violence that result in a visible injury, such as bruises, broken bones, wounds and burns.

While it’s certainly true that violence towards a partner or family member is domestic abuse, understanding of this tragic situation has grown over the years, and now includes a much wider range of behaviours used to control, bully and intimidate partners, former partners and family members.

What is domestic abuse?

We define domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation
  • and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Financial or economic abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Controlling behaviour is a type of domestic abuse, in which the perpetrator might isolate you from friends and family, take away your financial independence, make it harder for you to leave the relationship and try to control your everyday behaviour, such as what you wear or where you go.

Coercive behaviour is a type of domestic abuse where the perpetrator might threaten, assault, humiliate or intimidate you as a way of punishing, harming or frightening you.

Recognising the signs

Often, domestic abuse comes later in a relationship, and at first, your partner may have seemed loving, kind, attentive and supportive towards you, their family and friends. Having built a bond and developed trust, it can be hard to see when your partner’s behaviour starts changing towards the unacceptable.

Jealousy, manipulation and anger can soon spiral downwards into situations of serious anger and abuse – or sometimes, the abuse happens quickly and without any warning, exploding in the heat of the moment, quickly followed by regret, remorse and promises that it was a  ‘one-off’.

It can be hard for you and others around you to recognise and come to terms with your abuse, but with our help and support, you can find a way through this dark period and come out as a survivor. Nobody deserves to be abused, and that includes you.

Your home should be your sanctuary, but if you often feel fearful or anxious when you’re at home, then you need to assess your situation to see if your relationship is abusive, or if you feel you’re safe and secure.

HarassmentThreatsSexual violencePhysical violenceDenial
• Following you
• Checking up on you
• Not allowing you any privacy (for example, opening your mail, going through your laptop, tablet or mobile)
• Repeatedly checking to see who has phoned you
• Embarrassing you in public
• Accompanying you everywhere you go.
• making angry gestures
• using physical size to intimidate
• shouting you down
• destroying your possessions
• breaking things
• punching walls
• wielding a knife or a gun
• threatening to kill or harm you and the children
• threatening to kill or harm family pets; threats of suicide.
• using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts
• having sex with you when you don’t want it
• forcing you to look at pornographic material;
• constant pressure and harassment into having sex when you don’t want to
• forcing you to have sex with other people;
• any degrading treatment related to your sexuality or to whether you are lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.
• Punching
• Slapping
• hitting
• biting
• pinching
• kicking
• pulling hair out
• pushing
• shoving
• burning
• strangling
• pinning you down
• holding you by the neck
• restraining you.
• saying the abuse doesn’t happen
• saying you caused the abuse
• saying you wind them up
• saying they can’t control their anger
• being publicly gentle and patient
• crying and begging for forgiveness
• saying it will never happen again
Destructive criticism & verbal abusePressure tacticsDisrespectBreaking trustIsolation
• shouting
• mocking
• accusing
• name calling
• verbally threatening
• Sulking
• threatening to withhold money
• disconnecting the phone and internet
• taking away or destroying your mobile, tablet or laptop
• taking the car away
• taking the children away
• threatening to report you to the police, social services or mental health team unless you comply with their demands
• threatening or attempting self-harm and suicide
• withholding or pressuring you to use drugs or other substances
• lying to your friends and family about you
• telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
• persistently putting you down in front of other people
• not listening or responding when you talk
• interrupting your telephone calls
• taking money from your purse without asking
• refusing to help with childcare or housework.
• lying to you
• withholding information from you
• being jealous
• having other relationships
• breaking promises and shared agreements.
• monitoring or blocking your phone calls, e-mails and social media accounts
• telling you where you can and cannot go
• preventing you from seeing friends and relatives
• shutting you in the house.

If you recognise any of the signs above then we urge you to contact us or call us on 0113 303 0150 for a completely confidential chat, so we can offer you some support options to help you manage or leave your relationship.

The effects of domestic abuse

It can take a long time for victims of domestic abuse to seek help, and effects vary depending on the individual’s personal experience and circumstances.

Generally though, victims undergo a lot of personal changes as a result of the abuse, which can take a long time to address and come to terms with – these include:

  • Feeling isolated
  • Feeling socially excluded
  • A feeling of shock
  • A lack of confidence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Drug or alcohol dependency as a ‘coping mechanism’
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Inability to trust others

The effects of domestic abuse can have long-lived repercussions for the victim, their children and their wider families – and if your partner is being abusive to you, then there’s also a risk of those around you coming to harm.

Whether as a result of emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse, if you’re feeling scared, vulnerable and at risk and live in the Yorkshire or North East region, please call us on 0113 303 0150

24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247

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