The cross Government definition of domestic violence and abuse is:

"Any incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behavior, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:






Controlling behavior  is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploring their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behavior.

Coercive behavior is an act or pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

The definition includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as so called 'honour based violence', female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Family members are defined as mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, and grandparents, whether directly related, in laws or stepfamily.

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. Typically the abuse involves a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour, which tends to get worse over time. The abuse can begin at any time, in the first year, or after many years of life together. It may begin, continue, or escalate after a couple have separated and may take place not only in the home but also in a public place.

Domestic abuse occurs across society, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, wealth, and geography. The figures show, however, that it consists mainly of violence by men against women. Children are also affected, both directly and indirectly and there is also a strong correlation between domestic violence and child abuse suggesting overlap rates of between 40-60%.

Abusers are in control of themselves when they abuse?

Despite what many people believe, domestic abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his behaviour. Domestic abuse is a deliberate choice made by the abuser.

In the majority of cases the following can be said to be true of his behaviour;

  • He is not violent with other people i.e. his boss
  • He is able to stop and compose himself if the police arrive or the doorbell rings
  • If he uses physical violence he is able to choose where to cause visible injuries - often in places where others can not see them
  • He damages the victims possessions but rarely his own