Q108: What is domestic violence?

Domestic abuse is abuse (not necessarily only physical violence but also emotional, financial or sexual) between people who are or have been in an intimate relationship or are family members.

The definition of domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:


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.*

*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.

Figures show that domestic abuse seems to occur mostly towards women from men but can also happen towards men. Domestic abuse can occur in any relationship regardless of age, sex, class, race or disability. There are many organisations that specialise in helping victims of domestic abuse, see related websites.

If you have suffered domestic abuse and want to report the incident to the police, then contact Police Scotland by dialling 101. Each area has a domestic abuse unit with specially trained officers who can help you with all the difficulties involved in reporting domestic abuse, from personal safety to locating safe accommodation.

Some useful telephone numbers are:

Scottish Women's Aid National Domestic Violence Helpline 0800 027 1234
Refuge 24 hour National Crisis Line 0990 995 443
Careline 020 8514 1177
Mankind 0870 794 4124
Refuge information for men 08444 170 156

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