What domestic abuse is
The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is:
“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial control and emotional abuse."
Family members includes mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, and grandparents, whether directly related, in-laws or stepfamily.
(Source: Home Office 2015)
The Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of ‘controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships’. The offence closes a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour that occurs during a relationship between intimate partners, former partners who still live together or family members. This offence sends a clear message that this form of domestic abuse can constitute a serious offence, particularly in light of the violation of trust it represents, and will provide better protection to victims experiencing repeated or continuous abuse. It sets out the importance of recognising the harm caused by coercion or control; the cumulative impact on the victim and that a repeated pattern of abuse can be more injurious and harmful than a single incident of violence.
This does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.
The Home Office defines controlling and coercive behaviour as follows:
Controlling Behaviour Controlling behavior is 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 Coercive behaviour 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 a victim.
Domestic abuse can affect anyone
Anyone can experience domestic abuse: it can happen in all kinds of relationships, regardless of age, race, sex, sexuality, disability, wealth, gender identity and lifestyle. Abuse is coercive behaviour that seeks to have power and control over others. Domestic abuse is rarely a one-off event and often escalates over time. Statistics show that the majority of perpetrators are men and the majority of victims are women; however, domestic abuse can also affect women and men in same-sex relationships and men in heterosexual relationships.
If you have been the victim of domestic abuse or are supporting someone else who has, you can contact The Women’s Centre for support and information. You can contact us for advice and support regardless of whether you experienced domestic abuse recently or historically. You can phone the Women's Domestic Abuse Helpline on 01208 79992 and speak to someone in confidence.