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What is Domestic Abuse?

The cross-government definition of domestic violence 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 the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional


Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/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.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Power and Control

All forms of domestic abuse come from the abuser’s desire for power and control over other family members or intimate partners. Although every situation is unique, there are common factors involved. Power and control is established and maintained by using different tactics and behaviour patterns.


The wheel is divided into types of behaviours that abusers will use to gain control. Examples of the types of behaviours appear in each segment.

Consequences of Domestic Abuse

The consequences of domestic violence can be life threatening; in the UK two women a week are killed by their current or former partner. Victims can suffer from physical consequences but also psychological effects such as depression, fear, anxiety, eating disorders, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction and post-traumatic stress.

Causes of Domestic Violence

Attitudes and beliefs that underlie domestic violence tend to have their roots in gender inequality, rigid expectations of the roles within the relationship and are exacerbated by a lack of empathy. You can find more useful information on domestic abuse and its causes at Women’s Aid.

Children and Domestic Violence

Children are often the unseen victims of domestic violence. Children constitute one third of the refuge population and they are also affected by domestic abuse, even if the abuse is not aimed directly towards them. Children are more aware of domestic violence than most parents realise; in 90% of situations where domestic violence occurs, children are either in the room or the next room. Mothering through domestic violence can be difficult as your partner might target and undermine your authority as a mother as part of the abuse.  An abuser will commonly use the threat of having the authorities take the children away. This can be just another method of controlling the victim to prevent her from leaving. More information on the effects on children can be found at Women’s Aid.


A survey conducted by Sugar magazine in conjunction with the NSPCC discovered that 16% of teenage girls have been hit by a boyfriend and that 33% experience some sort of domestic violence or abuse at home.

For this reason, as part of a prevention programme, the Outreach Service of the Refuge delivers educational talks to teenagers on healthy and unhealthy relationships. With the aim of reaching all secondary schools on the island through the Education Department, this initiative should influence attitudes and beliefs amongst teenagers who are, after all, our future!

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Domestic Violence is any form of physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse which is used to gain power and control over the other person in an intimate relationship.

Women often say emotional abuse is worse than physical abuse as it leaves no visible scars, is difficult to prove and can be very damaging.

Children living with domestic violence can also suffer in a variety of ways; either by witnessing violence itself, by being used as emotional pawns or indirectly by the stress suffered by their mother.


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