What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner, ex-partner, a family member, or carer.

Men, women, transgender individuals and children all experience domestic abuse, and can also all be perpetrators of abuse. However, evidence shows that women are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse and the majority of perpetrators are men.  We also know that more individuals who identify as being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender are disproportionately affected by abuse.

Abuse can begin at any time in a relationship, after a relationship has ended or within a family, and it takes place at all levels of society, regardless of social class, race, age, religion, sexual orientation or disability.  Individuals may experience abuse or be affected by it long after they have left their abuser.

You can listen to more information on our Relationships Shouldn't Hurt podcast, which has topics on What is Domestic Abuse? (and transcript) and 16 Days of Action and Making Domestic Abuse Everybody's Business and transcript, which was recorded for the 16 Days of Action campaign which takes place annually in November/December.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to the following:

Domestic abuse also includes so called ‘Honour Based Violence/Abuse’, Transnational Marriage Abandonment, Female genital mutilation (FGM), and Forced Marriage.


It is understood that different individuals or groups will have different support needs and there may be differing elements of abuse.


People may also require support around the following topics:

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 brings in for the first time a legal definition of domestic abuse. Section 1 of the Act applies to the definition.

The behaviour of a person (A) towards another person (B) is “domestic abuse” if:

a. A and B are aged over 16 years old and are personally connected to each other​, and

b. The behaviour is abusive

Behaviour is abusive if it consists of any of the following:

a. Physical or sexual abuse;

b. Violent or threatening behaviour;

c. Controlling or coercive behaviour;

d. Economic abuse;

e. Psychological, emotional or other abuse

And it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

The Act defines people as being "personally connected" if any of the following applies:

a. They are, or have been, married to each other

b. They are, or have been, civil partners of each other

c. They have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)

d. They have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated)

e. They are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other

f. They each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child (this applies if the person is a parent of the child or has parental responsibility for them)

g. They are relatives

The Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years.​