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What is domestic abuse?


Recognising that you are being abused is an important step.


If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.


Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.


Domestic abuse comes in many forms.

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Coercive control


Coercive control is a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence. Domestic abuse isn’t always physical. Coercive control 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.


This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Physical or sexual abuse


Physical abuse is when the perpetrator has physically caused you harm by any means. It does not matter if your abuser has not 'raised a hand' to you, if they have physically hurt you in any way, this is physical abuse. Sexual violence is a term used to describe any form of unwanted sexual behaviour or acts. It doesn't matter if you know and trust the perpetrator (including a partner), or if it is a complete stranger, if the behaviour or act is unconsented, this is sexual violence. 


It can happen to anybody and it is not your fault if it has happened or is happening to you. You haven't done anything wrong. The perpetrator is the person in the wrong. They are the person responsible. 

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Psychological and/or emotional abuse


Psychological and or emotional abuse may not leave physical marks, but they can be just as destructive as physical abuse. There are various ways that a perpetrator might be abusing you psychologically or emotionally. 


Intimidation and threats. This could be things like shouting, acting aggressively or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.


Criticism. This could be things like name-calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person's self-esteem and self-confidence.


Undermining. This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you're being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel. 

Being made to feel guilty. This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.

Financial and economic abuse


Financial abuse is an aspect of 'coercive control' - a pattern of controlling, threatening and degrading behaviour that restricts a victims' freedom. It's important to understand that financial abuse seldom happens in isolation: in most cases perpetrators use other abusive behaviours to threaten and reinforce the financial abuse. It involves a perpetrator using or misusing money which limits and controls their partner's current and future actions and their freedom of choice. It can include using credit cards without permission, putting contractual obligations in their partner's name, and gambling with family assets.


Financial abuse can leave women with no money for basic essentials such as food and clothing. It can leave them without access to their own bank accounts, with no access to any independent income and with debts that have been built up by abusive partners set against their names. Even when a survivor has left the home, financial control can still be exerted by the abuser with regard to child maintenance. 

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Online and digital abuse


Many relationships that begin romantically can quickly become controlling, with partners reading emails, checking texts and locations of social media posts. Online platforms are increasingly used to perpetrate domestic abuse.


Online domestic abuse can include behaviours such as monitoring of social media profiles or emails, abuse over social media such as Facebook or Twitter, sharing intimate photos or videos without your consent, using GPS locators or spyware.

Impact of domestic abuse


Domestic abuse affects thoughts, feelings and behaviours and can significantly impact mental stability. Increased anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression symptoms are commonly observed among survivors of domestic abuse.

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