Definition of abuse

Domestic abuse and domestic violence are used interchangeably. Both are used to describe physical acts of violence as well as the underlying pattern of threats, humiliation and control that exist within an abusive relationship. Throughout this guide we use the term domestic abuse to indicate a broad range of harmful and coercive behaviours.

Domestic abuse is motivated by the desire for power and control and affects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the UK. See: Women's Aid.

The current Home Office definition of domestic abuse and violence is as follows:

"Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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."

Controlling behaviour is defined as:

"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 is defined as:

"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."