What is 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, physical, sexual, financial, emotional.

Controlling behaviour
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
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.

Family members
Mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparents whether directly related, in laws or step-family.

Tactics include but are not limited to:

  • Using hurtful names to make the one they love feel bad about themselves
  • Humiliating and degrading them
  • Pushing, hitting, slapping, biting, throwing objects
  • Keeping them away from family/friends or work
  • Using threats
  • Constantly checking where they are and who they are with
  • Obsessive jealousy
  • Forcing them to do sexual acts that they do not want to do
  • Making them think that it is all their fault or that no one will believe them
  • Controlling the finances
  • Making all the decisions
  • Demanding that things are done in a certain way
  • Accusing them of having affairs
  • Stalking and harassment

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their life time. It impacts on victims, children and society as a whole and can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economic group. Domestic abuse/violence can happen between couples and within families. It is not acceptable.

Myths and  realities of Domestic Abuse

Myth:  Domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women
Reality:  Men and women can abuse, just as men and women can be victims.  However women are more likely to suffer domestic abuse than men.  Women are also more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of violence.  1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.  It also occurs in same sex relationships, with 1 in 4 suffering domestic abuse.  Abusers and victims come from all backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, age, wealth or disability.

Myth:  Domestic abuse is a family matter
Reality:  Domestic abuse is a crime and therefore makes it everyone’s business.  Between 2007 and 2012, in the Thames Valley, 31% of adult homicides were domestic related.  The estimate cost of domestic abuse in the Thames Valley is £213 million each year.

Myth: Domestic abuse only happens in low income families
Reality:  Domestic abuse is common in all levels of society, whether rich or poor.  It is often easier to keep the abuse and violence hidden if the abuser has money and important friends, or is in a respected position such as a doctor, police officer or religious leader.

Myth:  Domestic abuse is caused by alcohol and drug use
Reality:  Alcohol and drugs are often associated with domestic abuse but they do not cause the violence.  Many people who consume alcohol and/or take drugs are not abusive. Abusers will often use both their own and/or the victim’s use of alcohol and/or drugs as an excuse as to why they have been violent and/or abusive. There is no excuse for domestic abuse.  Abusers are responsible for their own behaviour; however alcohol and drugs may increase the severity or frequency in some cases.

Myth:  Abusers are violent because they cannot control their anger
Reality:  Abusers often use anger as a justification or excuse for violent outbursts.  Many are not violent towards others, and choose to be violent when others are not around.  They use it to keep control and power over their partner. There were 32,404 incidents of domestic abuse reported to the Thames Valley Police in 2010/11.

Myth:  Victims can leave if they want to
Reality:  It can be very difficult to leave an abusive relationship for many reasons for example no where else to go, shame and embarrassment, cultural reasons, love their partner and hope that they will change, have very little confidence or self-esteem due to the abuse, do not know where to go or fear.  The most dangerous time for a victim is when they are leaving or have recently left a relationship.

Myth:  Children are not affected by domestic abuse in the home
Reality:  All children living in a home where there is domestic abuse will be affected to a greater or lesser extent.  They are more likely to have behavioural problems, display aggression, depression, trauma-related symptoms, grow up with anti-social behaviour and do less well in school, than children who have not witnessed domestic abuse; the younger the child the greater the risk.    

Myth:  Abusive people cannot change
Reality:  Abusers can change their behaviour if they are motivated to.  They need to recognise and be accountable for their abusive behaviour and seek support to change. 

Myth:  Domestic abuse only involves being physically hurt
Reality:  Domestic abuse is not always physical.  It can involve psychological, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.  Some abusers may never physically hurt their victim but it is rare for an abuser who is physically abusive to not also be emotionally/psychologically abusive.

Myth:  Victim’s choose abusive partners
Reality: Victims do not seek out relationships with abusers.  Frequently, the abusive part of someone’s personality does not get shown until the relationship is well established.

Myth: It was only a one off…
Reality: Domestic abuse is rarely a one off incident. It usually recurs over a period of time, often getting progressively worse.