What is domestic abuse?


Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse by a partner or family member.

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

  • Physical 
  • Mental
  • Sexual 
  • Financial or economic

Physical abuse is when the perpetrator has physically caused you harm by any means. It does not matter if your abuser has not ‘raised a hand’ to you, if they have physically hurt you in any way, this is physical abuse. This includes cutting your hair against your will. 

Mental abuse is where the perpetrator ‘gets inside your head’. They can make you feel like you’re not good enough, or make you doubt your own sanity. Coercive control and gaslighting fall under this category.

Sexual abuse is when you are touched in a way you feel uncomfortable with, or made to do sexual things, which you do not like and did not give consent to. If you are coerced or forced to have sex, this is rape, even if you are in a relationship. Being in a relationship does not mean that someone has access to your body – only you can give access to your body. 

Financial abuse, also called economic abuse, is where the abuser uses money as a form of control. There are many ways this abuse can manifest, but examples include restricting access to your own bank account, having the amount of money you’re ‘allowed’ controlled by your abuser, or running up bills or debt in your name. The majority of abusive relationships have experienced financial abuse at some point.

What does ‘coercive control’ mean?

Coercive control is a behaviour where the abuser uses ongoing oppression to instill fear. This can be a much more subtle form of abuse, such as telling you which friends you can or can’t see, texting you repeatedly to find out where you are, and telling you you’re overreacting if you try and address this behaviour (also known as ‘gaslighting’). Although this abuse does not leave physical bruises, it is still domestic abuse, and is a law in its own right in England.

‘Honour’-based abuse and forced marriages

In some communities, the concept of ‘honour’ is taken very seriously. This is where you must behave in a way to not bring the family’s name into disrepute. When an act or behaviour occurs which is seen to compromise this honour, there can be consequences in the form of physical or emotional abuse. This counts as domestic abuse.

Forced marriage is when you are forced to marry someone you do not want to marry, and do not consent to.

To find out more about ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriages, visit Karma Nirvana.

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