What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is any type of violent, emotional, controlling, bullying, threatening behaviour between people in a relationship. It includes physical violence, emotional abuse, coercion and control, harassment and stalking. Your experience can be of a single type of abuse but usually more than one type of abuse occurs.
Domestic abuse can seriously harm children and young people who witness it and so domestic abuse can also be child abuse. Abuse can happen inside and outside the home, over the phone, on the internet and on social networking sites. It can occur in any relationship and can continue even after the relationship has ended. Both men and women can be abused or abusers.
Types of domestic abuse
Domestic abuse can be physical, emotional, coercive or controlling, verbal, sexual and financial.
Some examples are:
- Being kicked, hit, punched or cut;
- Being screamed at;
- Being humiliated or constantly criticised
- Having your finances controlled by the withholding of money or being stopped from earning;
- Controlling behaviour such as telling you where you can go and what you can wear;
- Not letting you leave the house;
- Having emails, text messages or letters read;
- Receiving threats to harm or kill;
- Having a family member or pet threatened;
- Rape (including in a relationship – if you don’t consent it’s rape )
The impact on the victim’s family and friends should not be underestimated.
How can I prove domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse almost invariably occurs in private, so there are usually no witnesses. That means that the only evidence is likely to be your word, which may be denied by your abuser. The most important thing then, if you’re being abused, is to keep detailed notes, on every occasion, to prove what’s happened. Record repeated incidents because that will be the only way to prove what has happened and will also serve to illustrate the pressure you’re under. Attach to each record anything to support what you’re saying – a photo, a video, a screenshot – anything that helps you prove it’s happened.
Read our essential advice guide on how to prove domestic abuse.
How can ONRECORD help with my domestic abuse case?
ONRECORD is an evidence gathering service and app available for anyone who is experiencing domestic abuse and needs a confidential, effective way to record and gather evidence. Developed by a lawyer and a doctor, ONRECORD is designed to give you all you need to be able to accurately record and gather essential, often crucial, evidence about your domestic abuse case.
The impact on children is particularly important. Children and young people who witness domestic abuse are likely to feel frightened, confused and wary of adults. Some children learn to be abusers themselves. In either case, it can have a lifelong impact on their emotional and physical well-being, their academic progress and their ability to have successful relationships as adults.
Signs that a child has witnessed domestic abuse can include:
- Being aggressive or bullying;
- Anti-social behaviour, such as vandalism;
- Depression or suicidal thoughts;
- Attention seeking;
- Nightmares or insomnia;
- Regular sickness suggesting stress such as stomach upsets, headaches or mouth ulcers;
- Drug or alcohol use;
- Eating disorders;
- Problem behaviour at school;
- Trouble learning;
- Social withdrawal;
Controlling behaviour 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 is an act or a pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
Examples of controlling or coercive behaviour are:
- threats to harm children;
- threats to have children taken into care through coercion/exploitation of family court proceedings, or otherwise;
- threatening abuse when the victim does not comply with certain sexual acts;
- threatening abuse when the victim does not support/assist the defendant;
- threats of abuse if the victim does not terminate a pregnancy, as well as forcing a continued pregnancy. Victims may feel too intimidated to continue pregnancy to full term;
- ‘outing’ a victim’s sexuality or sexual orientation, HIV status or information about other sexually transmitted infections, immigration status.
- from money, or having their own bank account;
- from entitlements such as the victim’s name on property deeds;
- not being allowed to attend school/college;
- being restricted from certain opportunities, such as learning to drive, or access to car use;
- from medical care.
- not being able to have your own friends;
- being stopped from seeing family;
- not being allowed to leave the house;
- controlling the victim’s use of the telephone to contact others;
- exploiting the victim’s lack of understanding of English;
- using the victim’s actual or perceived mental health status to restrict activities, or contact with others;
- using the victim’s physical impairments or disability to maintain control over them and restrict activities or freedom to leave the home when desired.
The Crown Prosecution Service recognises that most incidents of domestic abuse will take place through person to person contact but that increasingly some incidents will take place via telephone/mobile calls, through internet and communications technologies, such as mobile texts, emails, social networking sites and other web-enabled methods.
What is online abuse?
Examples of online abuse include:
- Controlling the use of a complainant’s phone;
- Harassment through text, mobile, email, social networking sites etc.;
- Posting of inappropriate material such as sexually explicit or nude images or defamatory or insulting comments;
- Stalking a victim through the use of GPS technology on a victim’s mobile device;
- All forms of online communication which are unwanted, offensive or used to harm or threaten individuals;
- Online abuse may occur between individuals during an ongoing relationship, when a relationship has ended and between individuals in family relationships.
There are other kinds of serious forms of abuse you might be experiencing which can be dealt with by the police and where you are not having to prove a course of conduct. For example you may be subject to the kinds of things listed above but you may also have been raped (the law requires you to give consent to sexual intercourse otherwise it’s an offence. Being married does not change that) or assaulted. These types of one off events will be taken very seriously by the police. You should also think about going to see a solicitor who can help you be safe by going to court and getting an order (an injunction) to keep the person away from you.