Domestic Abuse Guide

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is not always physically violent. It is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviours as well as violence between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

This also includes sexual violence or abuse, financial, emotional and physical abuse. Domestic abuse can be by your partner, ex-partner, family member, extended family or your children.

Patterns of Domestic Abuse

  • Track you all the time?
  • Discourage your relationship with family and friends?
  • Prevent you from working or enjoying outside activities?
  • Appear to anger easily?
  • Force you to do something you do not want to do

    (i.e. participate in sexual activities you are uncomfortable with or commit a crime)?

      • Threaten to hurt you, your children or pets?
      • Destroy personal property or sentimental items?
      • Use or threaten to use a weapon against you
      • Humiliate you in front of others?
      • Criticise everything you do?
      • You make excuses for their behaviour

        (i.e. saying it’s due to alcohol, drugs, stress, work or they were ‘just joking’)

No one should live in fear of the person they love. If you recognise yourself or someone you know as being a victim of domestic abuse, please do not hesitate to reach out. There is help available.

Rape & Sexual Assault

The legal definition of rape is the physical penetration with a penis, without consent. Sexual assault however covers a wider range of offences. It is any physical, psychological, or emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. For example, it can be forcing someone to watch or participate in sexual activity against their wish or penetrating someone with an object, without their consent.

Other forms of sexual assault that people are often less aware of include female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment.

A significant number of women that we support have experienced rape and sexual violence and we work with these survivors, enabling them to regain confidence, independence and control over their own lives. We do this through having trained staff and an experienced specialist worker called and ISVA (independent sexual violence advocate).

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can include:

Sexual comments or jokes physical behaviour, including unwelcome sexual advances, touching and various forms of sexual assault, displaying pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature, sending emails with a sexual content.

Other harmful practices

Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is a form of abuse that can cause long lasting physical and psychological damage. It can also be known as Female Circumcision and Female Genital Cutting.
Breast Flattening or Breast Ironing
Breast flattening, also known as breast ironing, uses scorching hot objects like large stones, a hammer or a spatula to massage and flatten the breasts of girls over a period of time (sometimes years) as they enter puberty. There is a misguided notion that if the development of breasts is delayed, this could protect girls from rape and sexual harassment. As well as the unimaginable pain and psychological damage, survivors of breast ironing have a higher risk of developing cysts, infections or even cancer.
So Called ‘Honour-Based’ Violence

‘Honour-Based’ Violence can be described as a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. ‘Honour-Based’ Violence and abuse can take many forms, e.g. threatening behaviour, assault, rape, kidnap, abduction, forced abortion, threats to kill and false imprisonment committed due to so called ‘honour’. Murders in the name of so-called honour, (often called honour killings) are murders in which predominantly women are killed for actual or perceived immoral behaviour which is believed to have brought shame on the family.

We are proud to be part of the ‘Our Girl’ campaign alongside other specialist women’s organisations to raise awareness of this issue. See Our Girl Website for further information.

Forced Marriage
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
Trafficking & Modern Slavery
Modern slavery is a complex crime that takes a number of different forms. It encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. Traffickers and slave drivers coerce, deceive and force individuals against their will into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment. Victims may be sexually exploited, forced to work for little or no pay or forced to commit criminal activities against their will.
If you are affected by any of this and need support, please call our 24-hour confidential Referral Helpline on 08000 194 400. Our friendly and professional expert team of advisors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are a confidential service; however we may need to contact other professionals if we feel that you, or someone you are with, is in immediate danger.

Domestic Abuse Awareness Training

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