Domestic abuse

The charity Women's Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence. This is most commonly by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.

The abuse can affect people of any age, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Though domestic abuse can be physical violence towards someone, it also includes emotional abuse. It can happen in someone's own home, in a healthcare setting, care home or other support setting, anywhere else someone might have gone to for help, or in a public place. It can also happen online.

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant that many people have been less able to go out and live a 'normal' life and have been trapped by a person abusing or controlling them at home.

If you think you or someone you know is being abused, look at the information below on types of abuse and then the following section with useful links and help.

Types of domestic abuse

  • Physical abuse can include an abuser kicking, punching or physically hurting someone in another way, but it also includes them pushing or shaking someone, and even giving someone too much medication or not enough.

  • Sexual abuse includes sexual touching or behaviour towards someone that the person doesn't want. It can also include sexual 'grooming', where an abuser deliberately persuades a vulnerable person or young person to take part in sexual acts or behaviour, or encourages them to do something that will make them vulnerable to sexual abuse, either in person or online.

  • Emotional abuse or psychological abuse can include an abuser threatening to hurt someone or deliberately saying things they know will upset someone or make them feel bad about themselves.

  • Financial abuse can include an abuser taking someone else's belongings or their money to spend on themselves, forcing a person to give them money or other belongings, making someone buy something they don't want or need, or stopping them spending their own money if they want to.

  • Neglect is where someone is unable to meet the needs of someone else who depends on them emotionally or physically for their care, like a child, a disabled person or someone with dementia.

  • Self-neglect is where someone who is unwell is unable to look after themselves, for example if they aren't eating or taking their medication.

  • Discriminatory abuse is where an abuser behaves in a negative way towards someone they think is different or inferior to themselves; this can be because of someone's age, gender, sexuality, race or skin colour, disability or religion, among other things.

  • Coercive control is where an abuser uses different things from the list above like emotional, physical and financial abuse to make someone feel worthless or powerless, and so to control them.


  • – The NHS website has this page with lots of other references and links to charities and agencies who can advise and help you with different types of domestic abuse.

  • Refuge / National Domestic Abuse Helpline – Refuge's website focuses on help for women who are being abused. It has a number of options like a 24-hour freephone number, online chat, and help using British Sign Language (BSL) translators, as well as advice for different situations you might find yourself in and real women's stories of how Refuge have helped them.

  • – the UK Home Office has updated its advice and guidance on how to get help with domestic abuse, including finding help in other languages.

  • Respect – website and freephone helpline for people who are abusing someone and want to stop.

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