What is Domestic Abuse?
The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 provides a clear, statutory definition of domestic abuse for the first time in the UK. It defines domestic abuse as:
Behaviour of a person towards another person where they are each aged 16 or over and personally connected to each other and the behaviour is abusive.
Abusive behaviour includes abuse which is:
- Physical or sexual
- Violent or threatening
- Controlling or coercive
- Psychological, emotional or other abuses
It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
Economic abuse means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s ability to:
- acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or
- obtain goods or services.
Children living with domestic abuse
A child who sees or hears, or experiences the effects of, domestic abuse and is related to the person being abused or the perpetrator is also to be regarded as a victim of domestic abuse.
Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident, and should instead be seen as a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour through which the abuser seeks power over their victim, often escalating over time. Domestic abuse can start and occur in a relationship at any time, including after a couple has separated. It may not only take place in the home but also in a public place.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales year ending March 2020:
- an estimated 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 years (2.3 million) experienced domestic abuse in the last year. This equates to an estimated 7.3% of female victims (1.6 million) and 3.6% of male victims (757,000).
- 4.0% of men and 8.1% of women aged 16 to 59 years had experienced domestic abuse within the last year.
- Domestic abuse accounts for over one third of all violent crime in the England and Wales.
- An average of 2 women are killed by their partner or ex-partner each week.
A criminal offence of coercive or controlling behaviour against an intimate partner or family member came into force on 29 December 2015 and carries a maximum penalty for someone found guilty of five years imprisonment. Coercive control is:
An act or pattern of acts of
- Other abuse – used to harm, punish or frighten victims
A range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependant by
- Isolating them from sources of support
- Exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain
- Depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance or escape
- Regulating everyday behaviour
You can read the full guidance on the coercive control law from the CPS
You can visit our Campaigns page for more information about coercive control.
If you think a friend or family member, or a colleague or client is experiencing domestic abuse, there are things you can do to help.
- Find out information about local specialists services and help.
- Offer any practical help you are able to, such as the use of your telephone or address for information or messages.
- Offer help to protect them. For example, you could offer to inform the police or support agencies on their behalf or encourage them to talk to a counsellor.
- As an employer, show executive commitment and workplace policy to prevent domestic violence, to support employees affected by domestic violence, including referral to specialist services.
- Speak up when you hear or see attitudes or behaviours that support violence against women.
- Provide promotional materials and information to help raise awareness of domestic violence.
Victims First also includes domestic abuse awareness within its Victims First Connect programme
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse you can access support by contacting Victims First or find your local domestic abuse service by searching in our directory. The type of support available could include a help line, practical or emotional support, face to face support, group work and/ or counselling to help you cope with the impact of crime and build resilience.
More information on domestic abuse and ways you can get support can be found on the Reducing the Risk website
Rights of Women have published Reporting an offence to the police: A guide to criminal/police investigations, to support victims and survivors in reporting to the police.