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Domestic violence is defined in law as certain criminal acts committed between people who live together in the same household or have done so in the past. It includes those who have a child in common or are expecting a child, regardless of whether they have resided in the same household or not.

Domestic violence is not only between couples, it includes those who are related to one another in the following ways: spouse, child, grandparent, former spouse, brother, grandchild, parent and sister.

Domestic Violence is generally carried out in a private domain. It is inflicted by an intimate partner or by a close family member and usually continues over a period of time. The victim feels that their avenues of escape are limited and the abuse can be in many different forms, such as physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and neglect.

Recently the definition of domestic violence and abuse was defined by the government as:

''Any incident 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.”

Controlling and coercive behaviour are other forms of domestic abuse.

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate or dependent, by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

A coercive behaviour is an act or pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim.

The definition includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic communities such as so-called 'honour-based violence', female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident and should instead be seen as a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour, through which the abuser seeks power over their victim.

Typically the abuse involves a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour, which tends to get worse over time. The abuse can begin at any time, not just at the start of the relationship, it can occur after many years of life together. It may begin, continue, or escalate after a couple has separated and may not simply take place within the home.

Domestic abuse occurs across society, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, wealth, and geography. The figures show, however, that it consists mainly of violence by men against women. Children are also affected, both directly and indirectly and there is a strong correlation between domestic violence and child abuse, suggesting overlap rates of between 40-60%.

We have put links to different websites that deal with domestic violence in the resources section of this course.