In our view, Domestic Abuse is any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality, that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.

People may experience domestic abuse regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, age, sexuality, disability or lifestyle. Domestic abuse can also occur in a range of relationships including heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships, and also within extended families.

Perpetrators choose to behave abusively to get what they want and gain control and therefore the perpetrator is responsible for their own behaviour. Abusers come from all walks of life, from any ethnic group, religion, class or neighbourhood, and of any age. They do not have to use violence or abuse. They can choose instead, to behave non-violently and foster a relationship built on trust, honesty and respect.

At least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse at sometime in their adult life. Women on average are assaulted up to 35 times before they report the violence to the Police. Even so, the Police receive a call relating to a domestic abuse incident every minute in the U.K.

Domestic Abuse and Children

Children can experience domestic abuse in a number of ways. They might be in the same room and witness the abuse, be physically abused themselves, hear it from another room, or see their parent’s injuries afterwards. The effects can include children becoming fearful or distressed, or suffering physical, psychological or emotional developmental problems. Children who experience domestic abuse often display more behavioural and emotional problems, both internal (such as depression and anxiety) and external (such as aggression or anti-social behaviour) than other children (Humphreys, 2006).

Children who experience domestic abuse are also likely to be at risk of other types of abuse. Research shows that domestic abuse is a central issue in child protection, and is a factor in the family backgrounds in two thirds of serious case reviews where a child has died. (Brandon, 2010).

Children can also experience domestic abuse within their own relationships. Girls are more likely than boys to report experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships, and younger adolescents are just as likely as older adolescents to experience it. Most children do not tell an adult about this abuse, and it is only in recent years that awareness of this topic has increased in the UK, with it being recognised in government guidance for the first time in Working Together 2006 (Barter et al, 2009).

Research indicates that in 50% of cases, domestic abuse continues even after parental separation, often during contact visits, and so agencies must be aware of this when formulating their response. (Stanley et al 2009). There are few studies into what children think about contact arrangements (Thiara et al, 2012).