What is domestic violence and abuse?

Domestic violence and abuse is when you are being controlled, threatened and/or hurt by a current or former partner or family member(s). The abuse can include (but isn’t limited to) psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, honour-based violence, stalking, coercive and controlling behaviour and forced marriage. It can happen once or twice but often happens regularly with episodes of abuse forming a pattern.

Anyone can experience domestic violence and abuse regardless of gender, race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, age, disability or lifestyle. Domestic violence and abuse is defined as happening between people aged 16+ but children who have witnessed or been otherwise affected by domestic abuse are now recognised as victims-survivors in their own right.

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It can be hard to know if what is happening to you is domestic abuse. Below is some more information on the signs and forms of domestic violence and abuse. If you think you may be experiencing any of the following, we are here to help. You can reach us on our 24-hr helpline 0113 246 0401 or our email [email protected].

Recognising Signs of Domestic Abuse and Violence

Please note: The following drop-down boxes contain sensitive details of domestic violence and abuse, which may be difficult and/or triggering to read for some.

Criticism and Verbal Abuse

This can include shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling, threatening, putting you down in public/private, leaving nasty messages for you, and/or giving you the “silent treatment” when you won’t do what they want.

Physical Violence

This may include punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, locking you in/out of a room, shoving, burning, strangling and anything that harms your body physically.

Sexual Violence

This may include using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex or performing sexual acts on you when you don’t want to have sex, forcing you to watch porn, criticising your sexual performance, degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation or treating you in a sexual way that invalidates your gender identity.

Emotional Abuse

This can include degrading you, isolating you, enforcing trivial demands e.g. to recook a meal, displaying total power, threatening you, distorting what you say, giving you occasional treats to confuse you, forcing you to depend on them.

Financial Abuse

This may include running up debts, keeping money from you, preventing you from working or forcing you to give up work, making no contribution to ensure you have to work/provide for them, putting all bills in your name, controlling the household finances, forcing you to beg for money, setting up bank accounts in your name or using your name/cards to buy things, forging your signature on financial documents, controlling your access to things like heating, lighting, food and general finance.

Coercive control

This is a form of controlling behaviour designed to make you dependent by isolating you from support, depriving you of independence, exploiting you and controlling your everyday behaviour. This control can look like monitoring your time, isolating you from friends and family, checking your social media messages, deciding who you see/speak to, controlling your money, controlling your diary/ appointments, monitoring you through online activity or using spyware to monitor movements.

Pressure tactics

Pressure tactics are behaviours that pressure you to do what they want. These behaviours can include sulking, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions, and threatening to do certain things if you don’t do what they want i.e. withhold money, disconnect the phone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you follow their demands regarding bringing up the children.


This can include constantly putting you down in front of other people or in private, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your phone calls, taking money from your purse without asking and refusing to help with childcare or housework.

Breaking trust

This can include lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous and controlling over who you see, having other relationships and regularly breaking promises or shared agreements.


This may include monitoring or blocking your phone calls, texts and social media messages, telling you where you can and cannot go and preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.

Honour-Based Violence and Abuse

This can take many forms, including physical, sexual, and economic abuse, coercive control, child marriage, virginity testing, enforced abortion, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (known as FGM). Honour-based violence and abuse often rests on ideas around honour, shame and which behaviours are “acceptable”. These ideas may have been built in families and communities since an early age and can justify controlling and abusive actions from family members, community members and/or current or ex partners.

Forced marriage

Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both people don’t want to get married and are forced or coerced into it by their families or community. They may coerce you through threatening violence or otherwise acting abusively or controllingly towards you. 

Withholding medication / denying you access to treatment

This can include stopping you from taking or accessing the medication you need, making it difficult for you to access medical treatment, acting as your carer and attending medical appointments with you so you can’t get independent advice. This may be more likely to be used against someone suffering a chronic condition, mental health issue or disability or someone undergoing medical transition / gender affirming surgery.

Denial / gaslighting

This may include saying that the abuse isn’t happening, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, belittling what you have experienced and saying it’s not that bad or significant, saying you are making it up or have imagined everything, being gentle and patient in public but the opposite in private, crying and begging for forgiveness and saying it will never happen again.

Cyber / Online Abuse

This may include checking your phone, hacking into your emails/social sites, putting apps on systems which allow them to track you, accessing your messages, placing tracking devices on cars/bugs in homes.

Stalking / Harrassment

This may include following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.


If you think you may be experiencing any of the above, we are here to help. You can reach us on our 24 hr helpline 0113 246 0401 or by emailing [email protected]

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Click here for helpful resources and links for those affected by, or supporting someone affected by, domestic violence and abuse.