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What is Domestic Abuse?

The government definition for domestic violence and abuse is:

“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, which is not a legal definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members, and others close to them from time to time. We all do things at times which we regret, and which cause unhappiness to those we care about but if this begins to form a consistent pattern, then it is an indication of domestic abuse.

Recognising the Signs

Has your partner tried to stop you from seeing your friends or family?

Have they stopped you from starting a college course, or from going to school or work?

Do they check your phone and Facebook account?

Do they follow you when you go out?

Do they accuse you of flirting or of having affairs?

Do they constantly put you down, or regularly insult you in front of other people?

Are you ever afraid of your partner?

Has your partner ever destroyed any of your possessions deliberately?

Have they ever hurt or threatened you or your children?

Have they ever kept you short of money so you are unable to buy food for you and your children?

Have they ever forced you to do something that you really didn’t want to do?

Has your partner ever tried to stop you leaving the house?

Do they blame their behaviour on alcohol or drugs?

Has your partner ever showed cruelty towards family pets?

Does your partner tell you what to wear?

Is your partner much older than you?

Do they tell you it’s your fault they get angry?


If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you may be experiencing domestic abuse.



What do I do if someone I know is being abused?

  • Don’t judge. A survivor already feels put-down by the abuser.


  • Tell the survivor it is not their fault. There is help available.


  • Be unconditional in your support, or the survivor may not use your help again – which assists the abuser in further isolating the survivor.



  • It is ok to be honest and supportive, but do not tell the survivor what to do – that is just as controlling as the abuser.


  • Help the survivor identify a support system: friends, family.



  • Be patient. Leaving is a long and difficult process to break free: survivors may leave and return many times. One of the most important supportive acts you can do is to always be there – unconditionally.


  • Learn more about how to help a loved one who is being abused at the Help Centre.
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