What is Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse is about the misuse of power and the exercise of control by one person over another within an intimate or a family type relationship. It can begin at any time during a relationship, is rarely a one-off event and often increases in frequency and severity over time. There are multiple types of Domestic Abuse which are covered below.

Types of Domestic Abuse

Controlling behaviour –is when someone forces you to do what they want against your will. It is usually made up of many separate acts which stop you from doing what you want to do and not fulfilling your own wants and needs. It can impact on different parts of your life, like who you can see and when, whether you have access to your own money and how you behave every day. Example may be:

Coercive behaviour – Like controlling behaviour – coercive behaviour leaves you feeling that you must act in a certain way to keep the other person happy. However, there is no direct force involved, but a fear that is built up over time. It can happen over weeks, months or years and therefore can be hard to recognise as abusive. If you have not heard the word coercive before, think of it as being bullied or manipulated.

Physical abuse –is not limited to hitting or punching. It could take other forms, such as a push, a slap, or a burn. The person could use a weapon to hurt you or throw something at you, they may try to excuse their behaviour by blaming you for making them angry. This causes you to feel confused about the abuse and whether you are to blame. YOU ARE NOT. The person causing you harm is completely responsible for their own actions.

Sexual abuse – is any unwanted sexual activity, including rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment. It can happen to anyone, at any time in their lives and in any type of relationship. Sexual activity is violent when you have not consented. You must be able to agree to taking part in any sexual activity and not feel threatened into saying yes. If you have not consented – then this is sexual abuse.

When sexual abuse happens in an intimate relationship, this can be confusing and hard to accept that you are being abused. Just because you said yes once, does not mean that you consent every time and if you haven’t – then that is sexual abuse. You can not consent to sex if you are asleep, under the influence or alcohol or drugs, or have been coerced or threatened into being involved in a sexual act.

Image based sexual abuse – is when someone shares or threatens to share intimate images of you without your consent. You may have heard it referred to as ‘revenge porn’.

Many people have experienced sexual abuse and they report that they feel ashamed, you may even have been made to think that you were to blame. It is NEVER your fault.

Financial/Economic abuse –is when someone uses their relationship with you to take control of your money and valuables. It can include

  • Taking your money without telling you.
  • Taking control of your bank cards or accounts and not allow you access to them.
  • Using coercive controlling behaviour to manipulate you into giving them money.
  • Allowing you a small amount of money to spend which they monitor.

Economic abuse can also involve someone taking control of your high value belongings, maybe your house or your car for example. They may also coerce you into taking out finance agreements for them in your name, leaving you with the responsibility of repaying the debt. Economic abuse and coercive control are very closely linked.

Stalking and harassment  is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. Some examples of stalking are:

  • Following, surveillance, spying
  • Standing, loitering around your home, school, place of work etc
  • Verbal abuse or public humiliation
  • Unsolicited mail, postcards, photographs and gifts
  • Repeatedly texting/emailing/leaving voicemails
  • Planting spyware viruses into your computer
  • Hacking into your computer, email, cameras and social media accounts
  • Spreading rumours, discrediting
  • Threats/violence against you, your family, friends or pets
  • Physical violence, sexual assault, rape, murder
  • Befriending your friends, family to get closer to them
  • Going through rubbish bins; leaving offensive material in the garden
  • Breaking into your car, home or office and/or damaging property
  • Declarations of love and communications indicating they are in some sort of relationship with you
  • Cyber stalking, bullying and identify theft – social networks (including create fake accounts), websites, forums, chat rooms, instant messaging

What are the warning signs I should look out for?

The acronym FOUR helps you remember what type of behaviours to look out for:

Fixated: Being followed on your daily routine, spied on, or being watched by someone loitering around your work or home.

Obsession: Being monitored on or offline, cyberstalking, the ordering and cancelling of items on your behalf.

Unwanted attention: Gifts being sent or left for you; unwanted messages, letters or phone calls. Even damage or graffiti being caused to your property.

Repeated behaviour: This can be any nuisance or threatening behaviour, being approached, accosted or bullied repeatedly.

A forced marriage takes place when the bride, groom or both do not want to get married but are forced to by others.

People forced into marriage may be tricked into going abroad, physically threatened and/or emotionally blackmailed to do so. It can affect women and men, as well as girls and boys, from any community or background.

Forced marriage is wrong and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis. If someone is forcing a person to marry against their will in the UK or abroad, they may be breaking the law.

It should be noted that a forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage. An arranged marriage allows the parties to freely choose if they want to marry the person that has been selected for them by their family. There are no threats or intimidation associated with the tradition of an arranged marriage.

So called Honour based violence and abuse (HBV/A) is a collection of practises, which are used to control behaviour within families to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour.

This type of violence can occur when the perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code.

This subject encompasses a variety of offences including murder, rape, assault, abduction and domestic abuse.

Most victims of so called HBV/A are women or girls, although men may also be at risk. Men may be targeted either by the family of a woman who they are believed to have ‘dishonoured’, in which case both parties may be at risk, or by their own family if they are believed to be homosexual. This can happen across different cultures and identities and isn’t limited to one culture.

Common triggers for so called HBV/A include:

  • Refusing an arranged marriage
  • Having a relationship outside the approved group
  • Loss of virginity
  • Pregnancy
  • Spending time without the supervision of a family member
  • Reporting domestic violence
  • Attempting to divorce
  • Pushing for care of the child after divorce

Abuse comes in many different forms. Even when there is no physical violence, abusive language can be very damaging to you and your children. Emotional and psychological abuse are mostly non-physical behaviours that the abuser uses to control, isolate, or frighten you. Often, it is used to break down your self-esteem and self-worth in order to create a psychological dependency on him/her. Emotional and psychological abuse are hard forms of abuse to recognize because the abuse is spread throughout your everyday interactions.

Psychological abuse involves the use of verbal and social tactics to control someone’s way of thinking, such as “gaslighting,” which is not necessarily the same as other forms of emotional abuse

Gaslighting – is when someone manipulates you into doubting your own perceptions, memories and experiences resulting in self-doubt and confusion and questioning of your own reality. It can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and frightened. Examples might be:

  • The person may tell you that they didn’t do or say something that you have a very clear memory of.
  • They may deny their behaviours that may be hurting you, for example being physically abusive, or unfaithful or abusing substances.
  • They may tell you that you are losing your memory and that you have mental health issues that mean that you can’t trust yourself.
  • Making it hard or even impossible to see your family and friends
  • Depriving you of food, sleep, or medical assistance
  • Choosing how you dress or whether you wear make-up
  • Monitoring you phone
  • Taking your money
  • Not allowing you to seek work or education

The list goes on and you may be experiencing something different, but what it is important to recognise is that if your freedom or independence is being taken away from you, then it may be controlling behaviour.


Non-fatal strangulation is a form of physical abuse in which an individual’s air supply is intentionally restricted, often by another person using their hands or an object. This act can lead to immediate danger and long-term health consequences, including brain injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. Non-fatal strangulation is a criminal offence.

Section 70 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (DA Act 2021) introduced the offences of non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal suffocation. Schedule 2, paragraph 4 DA Act 2021 introduced the offence of racially or religiously aggravated non-fatal strangulation or non-fatal suffocation. The offences came into force on 7 June 2022.

Strangulation is not a sexual act, it is violence.

The common methods of non-fatal strangulation are:

manual – one or two hands held around the neck of a person

chokehold or head lock – external pressure applied by an arm around the neck

ligature – for example a scarf or belt tightened around the neck


pressure on the neck from a foot or knee

The above list is not exhaustive.

Methods of non-fatal suffocation could include:

putting a hand over the mouth and nose

compressing the chest

any other force or suppression applied to a person to cause a restriction of breath

The above list is not exhaustive: the legislation is widely drafted to include someone who ‘does any other act’. Therefore, any action that causes a person to be deprived of air which affects their normal breathing could be considered to fall within the definition.

Recognising signs of non-fatal strangulation is essential for taking steps to protect yourself. Here are some common signs to be aware of:

Physical Injuries: Bruising, redness, swelling, or visible marks around the neck or throat.

Breathing Difficulties: Shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, or hoarseness.

Neck Pain: Persistent neck pain, discomfort, or stiffness.

Voice Changes: Changes in vocal quality, such as a raspy or weak voice.

Memory Loss: Memory lapses or cognitive difficulties, including trouble concentrating.

Seeking Help and Protection:

If you have experienced non-fatal strangulation, or have concerns about this behaviour it is vital that you seek help and support.

Medical Attention: Seek immediate medical attention even if you do not exhibit severe symptoms. Non-fatal strangulation can cause internal injuries that may not be immediately apparent.

Report to Authorities: Non-fatal strangulation is a criminal offence, and support is available. Report the strangulation to the police. Provide as much detail as possible about the incident and any visible injuries.

Obtain a Protective Order: Consult with a solicitor or advocate about obtaining protection from the perpetrator.

Safety Plan: Develop a safety plan with professionals to ensure your well-being, including changing locks, varying routines, and considering personal alarms.

Seek Counselling: Seek counselling or therapy to address the emotional trauma and psychological impact of non-fatal strangulation.