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What is domestic abuse?

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 gave us the first proper way to describe domestic abuse and it covers much more than physical violence. Housing professionals must know the new definition which should be visible and included in domestic abuse policies and other guidance.

Domestic abuse can be a single event or events over time. It can include behaviour directed at another person, for example, someone’s child.

Abusive behaviour includes:

  • physical or sexual abuse
  • violent or threatening behaviour
  • psychological or emotional abuse
  • controlling or coercive (forceful) behaviour
  • economic or financial abuse

Economic abuse means any behaviour that makes it hard for a person to access, use or keep money or other property, or to access goods or services.

The victim and perpetrator (person causing the harm) must be personally connected.

For the abuse to be classed as domestic, both victim and perpetrator must be aged 16 or over, and be personally connected by either:

  • marriage or civil partnership, including the past, present, or intended
  • being or having been in an romantic relationship
  • having joint parental responsibility for a child under 18, including in the past
  • being related within the meaning of section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996

Relatives mean parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Step and half relations are included.

Other relationships include ex-partners and other family members. Paid and unpaid carers do not count unless they are also personally connected, like being a family member.

In 2014 the Government stated a new domestic abuse offence called coercive and controlling behaviour. Coercive and controlling behaviour is explained as a range of intended behaviours including intimidation, isolation, emotional abuse and manipulate. These behaviours are often the main ways of achieving power and control in an abusive relationship and these behaviours reinforce the threat or reality of physical abuse.