What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is not about a row going wrong or someone losing control.

On the contrary, domestic violence is all about control. Domestic violence is systematic, patterned behavior designed to control a woman. It is an abuse of power.

There are many ways that an abuser can try to control his partner, but most fit into four main categories:

  1. 1. Physical abuse

    This includes, but isn't limited to, slapping, hitting, pushing, restraining and kicking.

  2. 2. Emotional abuse

    Name-calling, constant criticism, threats and isolating a woman from friends and family are all techniques of control.

  3. 3. Financial abuse

    For example, taking her money, stopping her from working, providing a tight allowance and monitoring all her spending.

  4. 4. Sexual abuse

    An abuser might force a woman to have sex or perform degrading acts to assert his control. No woman should feel pressurised or forced into doing something with which she is not comfortable.

If a woman is forced to alter her behaviour because she is frightened of her partner's reaction, then she is being abused and controlled.

Who experiences domestic violence?

Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It happens to women from all walks of life, regardless of class, profession, race, age or religion.

  • One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her life.
  • Up to two women are killed by current or former partners every week in England and Wales.
  • Every single day in the UK, 30 women attempt suicide as a result of domestic violence.
  • The police receive a domestic violence call every minute in the UK.
  • In 90% of domestic violence incidents in family households children are in the same or the next room. 50% of those children are directly abused.
  • Only 16% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police - the majority of women suffer in silence.

Find out more about what domestic violence is: www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/

How might your friend be feeling?

Women who experience domestic violence often feel a conflict of emotions, ranging from fear and powerlessness to isolation and shame.

An abused woman may feel fear and uncertainty - never knowing when the next attack will come. She may feel anxious and stressed and may struggle to focus on work or other day to day responsibilities.

Abusers often use blame as a tactic to control their partners. So your friend may worry that the abuse is her fault. She may also feel guilty and ashamed about what is happening to her. She may feel that no one will believe her - and for this reason she may not have told you.

She may feel lonely and isolated because her abuser has cut her off from seeing friends and family. Without the support of the people who are close to her, she may start to believe her partner's constant criticism. The more isolated she becomes, the more dependent she is on her partner. She may lose her self confidence, and feel less and less able to reach out for help.

His behaviour, which may readily switch between charm and rage, is confusing. She may truly hope and believe that his behaviour will change. She may want the relationship to work so believes him when he begs for forgiveness and promises that it will never happen again.

It is important to remember that abused women are not weak, submissive victims. Women experiencing domestic violence are incredibly strong and resourceful. It takes incredible courage to survive every day in the face of fear and abuse.

It's important to let your friend know that she is not alone; that his behaviour is not her fault; and that you're there for her.

Know the signs

There's no simple way to know whether your friend is experiencing domestic violence, but there are signs that you can look out for.


Know the facts

Domestic violence is not about a row “going wrong” or someone “losing control”. On the contrary, domestic violence is all about control.


Know how to help

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