It is any threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

It is different to other forms of violence because:

  • it is the misuse of power and control
  • the abuser and victim/survivor are known to each other so issues of trust and betrayal and involved
  • it is a repetitive pattern of behaviour
  • it occurs overwhelmingly in private behind closed doors
  • the abuser knows how to get at the victim, often in subtle ways that others many not understand due to intimate knowledge of that person

Below are some of the different types of domestic abuse:

Prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation

Women and girls are forced, coerced or deceived to enter into prostitution and/or to keep them there. Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of women and children for the purposes of prostitution and domestic servitude across international borders and within countries.

Female Genital Mutilation/cutting

Involves the complete or partial removal or alteration of external genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some time between infancy and the age of 15.

Forced marriage

A marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties.

‘Honour’ based violence

Violence committed to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of a family and/or community.

Emotional and psychological abuse

Many women experience domestic violence without ever being physically abused. Sometimes they’re not sure if what is happening to them is domestic violence. They worry that no-one will take them seriously if they talk about it. If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused. Emotional abuse is an attack on your personality rather then your body. This abusive behaviour may include manipulation, intimidation and humiliation techniques, as well as threatening behaviour.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the most recognisable form of abuse. It can range from a slap or shove to a black eye, cut lip, or broken bone. In the most extreme cases it can result in death.

Sexual violence

Your partner should not use force or threats to make you have sex. He should not make you perform sexual acts with which you are uncomfortable. He should not criticise your performance. If he does any of the above, he is using sex to assert his authority and control you.

Stalking and Harassment

Individual incidents might include a rude remark in the street or persistent phone calls- they can also involve threats of violence, aggression, criminal damage and worse. This can go on for long periods of time. Cyber-stalking and online threats are also included in this category of abuse

Financial control

One of the most powerful ways a man can control his partner is by using financial abuse. There are many different forms of financial abuse, but it might include things like your partner taking your money; stopping you from working; placing all the bills or debts in your name; or monitoring how you spend money and other financial resources e.g. preventing you from getting or keeping a job, making you ask for money, making you account for every penny you spend by showing receipts, controlling your bank account, taking control of any welfare benefits that you receive, placing debts in your name.


In many instances of abuse, the perpetrator will seek to isolate the victim for their friends and family in order to gain increased control.