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Definition of Domestic Abuse

New definition

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.

Whilst this is not a legislative change, the definition will send a clear message to victims about what does constitute domestic violence and abuse.

We encourage you to review your guidance and policies on domestic violence and abuse to reflect the change in definition.  

You can read more about the new definition on the Domestic Violence policy page on Home Office website.  (

It is absolutely imperative that society overcomes this ignorant fact that domestic abuse is "just" physical, please understand it is not and it goes much deeper than that.  Domestic abuse is a series of events that in time become regular and increase in severity.  The victim will not know that they are a victim of domestic abuse as the abuse begins subtily, usually with isolation from friends and family, in order for the perpetrator to carry out the abuse.  So when come people say, "huh if my partner hit me, I would leave" a victim of domestic abuse would not do this because even before the first punch has been thrown or the first slap received, the abuse has already started, a victim is formed and it is not easy to just leave.  Before the victim has learned that they are actually a victim, they are in existence not living, they have been brainwashed by their perpetrator, they believe everything they say because they are isolated from friends and family and rely completely on the perpetrator, something which is part of the vicious cycle.


Physical Abuse:

Biting, scratching, kicking, hitting, punching, burning, strangling

Mental Abuse:

Intimidating, stalking, insulting, isolation, criticising, treating as an inferior, forced marriage, harassment

Sexual Abuse:

Rape, unwanted sex, unwanted sexual acts, sexual acts with instruments, forced to do sexual acts

Financial Abuse:

Not allowing the victim money, making the victim beg for money, putting all bills and debts in the victims name

Domestic abuse is a vicious cycle

Phase One - Tension Building: Tension increases, breakdown of communication, victim becomes fearful and feels the need to placate the abuser

Phase Two - The Incident: Verbal, emotional, physical abuse.  Anger, blaming, arguing.  Threatens and intimidation

Phase Three - Reconcilliation: Abuser apologises, gives exuses, blames the victim, denises the abuse occured or says it wasn't as bad as the victim perceieves

Phase Four - Calm: Incident "forgotten" no abuse is taking place.  The "honeymoon" phase

This cycle is a cycle that all victims live day in day out until they are strong enough to break free, and this can only be done with the right support and aftercare.