What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is any kind of abuse that happens within the household or between people in an intimate relationship but not necessarily living together.  It can take many forms almost always involves an element of controlling or coercive behaviour. If you , or someone you know, is being abused you may find these phone  helplines useful.

Domestic abuse is part of the wider scope of gender-based violence, and many of those who are affected by it are targeted because of their gender. Gender-based violence against women and girls is more prevalent; but directed towards men it is just as serious.

Perpetrators carry out their abuse in a number of ways:

  • Controlling behaviour, for example controlling what you do, who you see and what you wear
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse, for example mocking and undermining you
  • Financial abuse, for example controlling your spending or building up debt in your name
  • Isolating you from family and friends

 Action such as FGM and forced marriage are also considered as abuse and are illegal in many parts of the world, including the UK.

Suffering domestic abuse can be devastating. Ultimately only you can decide what course of action to take but there are a number of options.

  • Contact a specialist domestic violence agency (see details below).
  • Call the police in the case of threat to life.
  • If you are in the UK and concerned about your partner’s behaviour, you have the ‘right to ask’ whether they have a history of violence, under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’).
  • Disclose the violence to a trusted person e.g. a friend, a family member, a neighbour, your employer or a professional.
  • Make a safety plan to protect and increase the safety of yourself, and any children, either within an abusive relationship or if you decide to leave.
  • Keep a record of the violence (in a safe place) in case you want to give evidence in the case of a prosecution.
  • Remember that if there are children in the home, domestic abuse is also a child protection issue.

 Learning or suspecting that someone you know is being abused is also hard. Knowing how to respond can be difficult, especially if you are worried about making a situation worse. Each situation will be different but there are some general principles that you can follow.

  • Find an appropriate time and place to express your concerns, away from the abuser. Be careful of communicating via text or email as the abuser may be monitoring these.
  • Express your concern in a direct but sensitive manner. However, avoid telling the person what to do.
  • Let the person know what support you can offer.
  • If the person says they are not being abused, keep monitoring the situation; and if you still suspect they are being abused, approach them again.
  • Report your concerns to the police. If you are in the UK and concerned about a potential perpetrator, you also have the ‘right to ask’ whether the individual has a history of violence, under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.

It may be difficult for a person experiencing abuse to decide on or commit to a plan of action, and some will choose not to leave their abusive situation for various reasons. However, it is important to prioritise the safety of the person suffering abuse, at any time.

For more detailed guidance and information, download our annex from the 16 Days of Activism pack here.

Help lines UK

National Domestic Violence Helpline  0808 20 00 247 Free phone 24-hour phone line for information about local refuges (run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge)

Men’s Advice Line   0808 80 10 327

National LGBT Domestic Violence Helpline: 0300 999 5428 A helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims/survivors

Forced Marriage Unit Helpline   020 70080151

Rape Crisis England and Wales  0808 802 9999

Refuge:   0808 2000 247Charity supporting women and children affected by domestic abuse and gender-based violence

Childline   0800 1111

Samaritans   0845 79 09 090

Victim Support   0845 30 30 900

Respect Helpline (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm)   0808 802 4040  A confidential phone line for perpetrators of domestic abuse

Churches Child Protection Advisory Service   0845 120 4550 A 24-hour confidential phone line staffed by counsellors and professionals


Pastoral Guidance

“Responding to domestic abuse: guidance for those with pastoral responsibility”  Church House Publishing, 2006.