Domestic abuse is defined as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, co-ercive, 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:
Domestic abuse can also include forced marriage and so-called “honour crimes”.
Controlling and co-ercive behaviour
Domestic abuse is often thought of as physical, such as hitting, slapping or beating, but it can also be controlling or co-ercive behaviour. This is important as what might look like an isolated incident of violent abuse could be taking place in a context of controlling or co-ercive behaviour.
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or independent 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.
Co-ercive 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.
We know that the first incident reported to the police or other agencies is rarely the first incident to occur; often people have been subject to violence and abuse on multiple occasions before they seek help.
Safeguarding children exposed to domestic abuse
Children who live in families where there is domestic abuse can suffer serious long-term emotional and psychological effects. Even if they are not physically harmed or do not witness acts of violence, they can pick up on the tensions and harmful interactions between adults. Children of any age are affected by domestic violence and abuse. At no age will they be unaffected by what is happening, even when they are in the womb.
The physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children can be severe and long-lasting. Some children may become withdrawn and find it difficult to communicate. Others may act out the aggression they have witnessed, or blame themselves for the abuse. All children living with abuse are under stress.
- Consider the presence of domestic abuse as an indicator of the need to assess a child’s need for support and protection
Make sure the child’s experiences and views are captured and included. In contexts where the safety of the adult victim is seen as the main priority this can dominate people’s immediate thinking and action, and children’s voices can be lost.
Read the 4LSCB practice guidance here.
For further information
See the Domestic Violence information in our 4LSCB procedures
Support services for information