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What is Domestic Abuse

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.

  • Emotional.

This definition includes so called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Within this definition:
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. (Home Office).

Sexual Violence is any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person's sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object. (United Nations).

Why We Stay

To many onlookers it seems simple: if a woman is being abused, she should just get up and go, or throw her abuser out. Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship knows it is a lot more difficult than that. There are all sorts of emotional, physical, financial, social and spiritual hurdles to overcome. It is quite common for someone being abused to leave and return to the abuser several times.

This page is for those who are trying to understand the difficulties an abused person faces when considering leaving. For anyone who has been or is there, there is no need to explain, but I hope this will help you to realise that many of us have been there, and understand your decision, whether you choose to stay or leave.

Please scroll down for some of the reasons an abused person may choose to stay with her or his abuser, or who, having left, chooses to return.


Often a woman will find it difficult to classify herself as abused or battered. While we deny there is a problem and pretend everything is okay, we can continue to believe it is. Many people tell themselves "it is not that bad", or "it is not him, it is the drink, drugs, etc". We all want to believe the best of our partner, and it can often take years of repeated victimisation or frequent visits to hospital before we can accept the reality of our situation.


Even once we have acknowledged to ourselves, and possibly others, that there is a very serious problem, we still hold out hope that things will change, that we can somehow work this out. It is difficult letting go of the dream of a happy couple or family and accepting that abusers very rarely change. In our efforts to maintain hope, we will cling to memories of "good times" together, or concentrate on the honeymoon phase, hoping it will last.


Being subjected to abuse is a humiliating and demeaning experience and will most often leave us feeling very ashamed. Somehow being the victim of abuse seems to make us into less of a person. We may feel that we are letting our family down, our status quo, or even our abuser. Leaving may also feel as though we are giving up, admitting defeat, admitting the situation is beyond our ability to deal with. Quite a few victims of domestic abuse have been in an abusive relationship previously and may feel ashamed of having 'chosen the wrong person' twice or more even - or we may be convinced that the fault really does lie with us, that since it has happened before, it must be our fault.


We somehow buy into the myth that the abuse is really our fault, that we somehow provoked it, deserved it, or are otherwise responsible for it. Most abusers shift the blame onto their victim, making us responsible for their emotional and often physical well-being, and it can be very hard realising that they alone are responsible for their actions.


Our abuser may offer financial security. This is often a very important issue for people with young children especially, disabled or older people, maybe it seems worth tolerating some abuse to at least know you can afford to feed and clothe the children, afford medical bills, or at least have a decent standard of living. Many women especially simply do not have the resources to provide for themselves, also, they may not have completed their education or have much work experience due to bringing up children, and do not feel that they will be able to find work given their emotional and mental state and responsibilities toward any dependants.


Where do you go? There may not be Refuge facilities near-by, you may not have a supportive family or friends who can put you up, and you may not be able to afford a place of your own. Especially if your partner has been violent, has threatened to hurt you or the children, it may seem safer to stay put than risk angering him more by trying to leave.


Maybe we do not want to disrupt the children by removing them from their home, their school, their friends. Maybe we feel that while he is still being fine with the children, things are not too bad. We may believe it is important for the children to have both parents living with them, and maybe the children themselves are exerting pressure for us to stay with their father.


If we have pets we may be too worried about leaving them with the abuser or in the home if we move to a refuge, especially if threats have been made to harm or kill the animals or if they have already been hurt or mistreated by the abuser. Sometimes we are even told that if we leave we will never see our pets again, so we stay to protect them.

Fear of Reprisal

Often when we either leave or try to leave, the abuse intensifies. Violence may increase and there is the constant threat of being tracked down, stalked, and attacked or even killed. This fear is very real. According to statistics, more women are killed by their partner AFTER they have separated than while still living together.