Domestic Violence 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 involve, but is not limited to:
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What is on this page?
- Women and Domestic Violence
- Controlling Behaviour
- Coercive Behaviour
- Threatening Behaviour
- Physical Abuse
- Emotional & Physiological Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Economic or Financial Abuse
- Perceptions of abuse
- What Would You Do Next?
Women and Domestic Violence
Women are more likely than men to experience multiple incidents of abuse, different types of domestic abuse (intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking) and in particular sexual violence.
Any person can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability.
Domestic abuse also includes different forms of family violence such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called “honour crimes” that are perpetrated primarily by family members, often with multiple perpetrators.
Controlling behaviour is defined as 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.
The law defines coercive control as controlling behaviour that has a “serious effect” on a partner, causing them to fear violence at least twice or causing them serious distress.
The threat of harm generally involves a perception of
• Physical or
• Mental damage.
Abusers often threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. Abusers may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services. This type of threatening behaviour is also regarded as being controlling behaviour.
Intimidation tactics include:
• Threatening looks or gestures,
• An outburst of rage,
• Destroying property,
• Abuse of pets, or
• Placing weapons on display.
Often intimidation is used to scare the victim into submission.
Behaviour involving physical force intended to:
• Damage, or
• Kill someone or something.
Domestic abuse occurs when either the woman or man in the relationship is physically assaulted by their partner through the use of violence which can often escalate to the physical battery.
Emotional & Physiological Abuse
The aim of emotional or psychological abuse is to chip away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. Emotional abuse includes:
• Verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming
• Intimidation, and
• Controlling behaviour also falls under emotional abuse.
Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence to again control their partner’s independence.
Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, otherwise referred to as rape by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence.
(For more information on rape and marital rape, please visit our Sexual Offences page under Criminal Law or speak to one of our specialist criminal lawyers.)
Economic or Financial Abuse
• Controlling of finances,
• Withholding money, debit cards or credit cards,
• Daily, weekly or monthly allowance,
• Stealing partners money,
• Withholding of basic necessities such as food, clothes and shelter,
• Sabotaging partners job,
• Preventing partners from seeking full or part-time employment.
An incident of domestic violence can lead to consequences in criminal law and civil law. The remedies in civil law can be found in the Family Law Act 1996 and the Protection of Harassment Act 1997.
Perceptions of abuse
In March 2017, The Crime Survey for England and Wales found that most adults responding to their survey thought it was always unacceptable to hit or slap a partner. However, some respondents thought it was always, mostly or sometimes acceptable to hit or slap a partner in response to:
• having an affair or cheating on them.
• flirting with other people.
• constantly nagging or moaning.
If you are and/or may be a victim of domestic violence, you are entitled to free legal aid. For more information on legal aid, please contact our customer services team. You can report domestic abuse and violence on https://www.gov.uk/report-domestic-abuse
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