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What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a crime and is unacceptable. It is about power and control. It is rarely a one off incident, but a pattern of abusive and coercive control and can take many forms, often escalating in frequency and severity.

Domestic abuse affects men, women and children. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, disability, age, race, social group, wealth, class or lifestyle.

Recognising abuse

Recognising that you are in an abusive relationship is not always easy. Some abusive behaviours are subtle and may happen gradually so you do not notice them at first.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you afraid of your partner?
  • Do you feel bullied or belittled by your partner?
  • Do you avoid family and friends because of your partner?
  • Do you feel as if you are walking on egg shells at home?
  • Do you change your behaviour to avoid triggering an incident?
  • Does your partner have sudden changes of mood which dominate the house?
  • Is your partner charming one minute and abusive the next?
  • Are you afraid of making your own decisions?

If you answer yes to one or more of these then you may be suffering domestic abuse. Some abusive behaviours are subtle and may happen gradually so you do not notice them at first. You can contact a local domestic abuse service for help and support or read more under our about domestic abuse page.

If you are suffering domestic abuse it is important to remember that you are not to blame.

Defining domestic abuse

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:

  • psychological (for example criticism, isolation, threats)
  • physical (for example slapping, pinching, beating, strangulation)
  • sexual (for example rape)
  • financial (for example witholding money)
  • emotional

For more information about the definition of domestic abuse, please see GOV.UK - Domestic abuse: how to get help.