Domestic Violence And Abuse In The UK

This 16 Days of Action to End Gender-Based Violence, Touchstone are focusing on raising awareness of domestic violence and abuse. Below is an introduction to the picture of domestic violence and abuse in the UK with information on where you can get help if you need to. Please care when reading.

Domestic violence and abuse occurs in every country around the world, and the UK is no exception. In order to challenge domestic abuse, we first have to understand it. So, what is the picture of domestic abuse in the UK?

What is domestic violence and abuse defined as?

The UK government’s definition of domestic abuse is “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.”

Who is most likely to be a perpetrator of abuse?

The definition notes that domestic abuse can be committed by either a family member or an intimate partner. Often people understand domestic abuse as being committed by a romantic or sexual partner, but domestic abuse can also be perpetrated by a family member. This definition also acknowledges that domestic abuse is not always perpetrated by someone who lives with the victim-survivor, and that the relationship can end but the abuse can continue.

Domestic abuse and violence is fundamentally an issue of power and control. It is a gendered issue and, in most cases, the victim-survivor is a woman and the perpetrator a man. However, abuse can take place in any relationship, regardless of traditional relationship dynamics. So daughters can be abusive towards fathers; brothers can be abusive to sisters, and so on.

This definition also makes clear that domestic abuse can happen in relationships between people of any gender or sexuality, which is important to understand. No matter your sexual orientation or your gender identity, any family member or partner who is abusive or violent towards you is committing domestic abuse. LGBTQIA+ people experience domestic abuse at the same rates as (or higher than) heterosexual cisgender people.

What forms can domestic violence and abuse take?

This definition also captures the fact that domestic abuse does not have to have a physical element: it can be controlling, coercive or threatening, or it can be psychological or emotional.

It is important to remember that domestic abuse can also include harassment, stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and ‘honour-based’ abuse. Trafficking is also a type of domestic abuse.

If a child is under 18 and sees or hears domestic abuse happening to a family member, this is also domestic abuse. If they experience abuse, this is child abuse.

What to do if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse?

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse and feel frightened of, or controlled by, a partner, an ex-partner or family member, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault and there is no shame in seeking help. You can get help from any of these organisations depending on where you live in the UK:

  • If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, call 999.

For other forms of support, please see resources and support services below: 

National Support Services

  • Wales Live Fear Free Helpline:

Leeds Domestic Violence Services (open to anyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity)

Women’s Domestic Violence & Abuse Services

LGBTQIA+ Domestic Violence & Abuse Services

Local LGBTQIA+ General Support Services

Men’s Domestic Violence & Abuse Services

Seeking help for someone you know can be challenging but #YouAreNotalone. Domestic abuse advisers will offer confidential, non-judgemental information and advice on the options available to you helping you to keep safe and make informed choices.

If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, you should always call 999.

If someone confides in you, there is more information on how to support a friend who is being abused