Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between people who are, or who have been in a relationship, regardless of gender or sexuality. It can also happen between adults who are related to one another and can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial abuse.
Each UK nation has its own definition of domestic abuse for professionals who are working to prevent domestic abuse and protect those who have experienced it (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, 2016; Home Office, 2013; Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, 2019; Welsh Government, 2019).
Domestic abuse can include:
- sexual abuse and rape (including within a relationship)
- punching, kicking, cutting, hitting with an object
- withholding money or preventing someone from earning money
- taking control over aspects of someone's everyday life, which can include where they go and what they wear
- not letting someone leave the house
- reading emails, text messages or letters
- threatening to kill or harm them, a partner, another family member or pet.
Witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse
Domestic abuse always has an impact on children. Being exposed to domestic abuse in childhood is child abuse.
Children may experience domestic abuse directly, but they can also experience it indirectly by:
- hearing the abuse from another room
- seeing someone they care about being injured and/or distressed
- finding damage to their home environment like broken furniture
- being hurt from being caught up in or trying to stop the abuse
- not getting the care and support they need from their parents or carers as a result of the abuse (Holt, Buckley and Whelan, 2008).
Why domestic abuse is a safeguarding issue
The videos on this page feature Paddi Vint, an NSPCC Development and Quality Manager who is overseeing a three-year domestic abuse project at the NSPCC which is supported by the Covid-19 Support Fund.