Q108: What is domestic violence?

Police Scotland defines domestic abuse as:

"Any form of physical, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere including online"

The definition of domestic abuse in Scotland differs from the definition of domestic violence in England and Wales which includes wider familial abuse e.g. from parents or children etc.

It is acknowledged that domestic abuse as a form of gender based violence is predominately perpetrated by men against women. This definition also acknowledges and includes abuse of male victims by female perpetrators and includes abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI ) people within relationships.

This definition of domestic abuse encompasses the entire spectrum of behaviour by perpetrators where this amounts to criminal conduct. This includes cases which involve isolated incidents as well as cases involving a course of conduct and includes both violent and non-violent abusive behaviour.

The law around domestic abuse was strengthened in 2019 by creating a specific offence of domestic abuse. It is recognised that domestic abuse consists of a wide range of abusive behaviours that undermine the victim and restrict their freedoms and can be more than physical or sexual harm.

Below are some examples of the types of behaviour that fall within the definition of domestic abuse; for full details, please see the provisions of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 -

  • behaviour that is violent, threatening or intimidating towards a partner or ex-partner or
  • behaviour with the purpose of -
      • making a partner or ex-partner dependent on or subordinate to the perpetrator;
      • isolating a partner or ex-partner from friends, relatives or other sources of support;
      • controlling, regulating or monitoring the day-to-day activities of a partner or ex-partner;
      • depriving or restricting a partner or ex-partner's freedom of action; or
      • frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing a partner or ex-partner.

This represents a significant change in the law and enables Police Scotland to focus on the full extent of abusive behaviours and the devastating impact such a course of conduct can have within a domestic relationship.

If you have been the victim or witness to domestic abuse, or have concerns regarding a victim of domestic abuse, you can report this to the police by:

  • Dialling 999, if someone is in immediate danger.
  • Attending your local police station
  • Dialling 101.
  • Use our online domestic abuse form if you are unable to go to your local office (or prefer to remain anonymous). You can submit the form directly to us.

Police Scotland does not tolerate domestic abuse and reported incidents will be investigated thoroughly. For more information on domestic abuse victim support and advocacy services, please visit the Police Scotland website.

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