What is domestic abuse?

What is domestic abuse?

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse [1] as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner. 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[2]
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Domestic abuse is a gendered crime which is deeply rooted in the societal inequality between women and men. It takes place “because she is a woman and happens disproportionately to women.”[3]

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 woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability, but some women who experience other forms of oppression and discrimination may face further barriers to disclosing abuse and finding help.

Domestic abuse exists as part of violence against women and girls; which 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.

 


References

[1] Our default position is to talk about “domestic abuse” because we recognise that survivors may not identify with “domestic violence” if they have not been physically abused, and we want to meet the needs of survivors and talk to them in a way that is as accessible as possible. However, we know that within the sector “domestic violence” is frequently used (the government website describes “domestic violence and abuse”) and there will be circumstances where this is the most appropriate terminology.

[2] Psychological and emotional abuse have tended to be used interchangeably. The former covers abuse that impacts on the mind and mental health the latter abuse that impacts on emotions and well-being.

[3] United Nations (UN) Declaration on the elimination of violence against women 1993.

© 2015 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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