Domestic abuse (also known as domestic violence)

Home Office guidance (2013) defines domestic abuse as:

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 definition includes people who are aged 16-17, in recognition of the increasing awareness that violent relationships are too commonly experienced by teenagers. Domestic abuse and violence can be perpetrated by any other person who has a blood relationship or an intimate connection with the victim, for example a son or daughter, a close friend, a partner or someone who has taken on the caring responsibility for an adult.

Most of the research deals with men perpetrating violence against women, but there is an increasing awareness and recognition of female offenders; work in this area is still developing and it may be some time before the scale of domestic violence perpetrated by women becomes clear. In the meantime, although current policies and procedures tend to emphasise violence as perpetrated by men, remember that women can also be abusive within a relationship. Be prepared to take seriously claims of this kind.

Domestic abuse is an issue for children and adults alike: approx 750,000 children witness domestic abuse every year, and its effects can de dramatic on their educational, social and health outcomes later in life. According to national crime statistics, murders of women by ex-partners occur, on average, about twice a week (120 per year), and suicide attempts are linked to domestic abuse in about one third of cases. Statistically, the first few weeks following an acrimonious break-up of a relationship are the most dangerous for the woman and her children.

Domestic abuse may be planned and executed systematically, or it may be an uncharacteristic loss of control from an overburdened carer of a vulnerable adult who needs support, or a partner who has anger management problems. In either case, action must be taken to report what is happening if children are involved in the relationship. Where there are no children, the consent of the victim should be sought before referring to other agencies, unless you believe the adult is unable to make a decision of this kind, in which case you should seek advice before making a formal referral.

Domestic abuse is not usually a one-off event (this would be seen as a straightforward criminal assault). It tends to be frequent and persistent and can include:
physical violence;
destruction of personal property;
isolation of the vulnerable adult from family, friends or others who would seek to support and protect;
exerting inappropriate control over the vulnerable adult ;s day to day life, including access to money, the telephone, food, mobility, other people etc.

Domestic abuse happens in all types of homes, all socio-economic groups, and is perpetrated or suffered by all types of people: heterosexual, gay, lesbian; professionals, non-professionals and those who are unemployed; wealthy or impoverished; practising members of faith groups and those with no religious faith at all. Statistically, the perpetrator of domestic violence is much more likely to be male than female, but this should not be taken for granted.

The prevalence of male violence and controlling behaviour in heterosexual relationships among teenagers may be where the seeds for a life of perpetrating - or expecting - violence within a relationship are sown. In 2011 NSPCC research found that among disadvantaged teenagers (identified through the various agencies working with them), approximately half the girls and a quarter of the boys thought that violence should accepted as part of an intimate relationship.