Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and/or violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner. Domestic abuse is overwhelmingly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. It doesn’t matter how old someone is, what race or ethnicity they are, what class they are, whether or not they are disabled, or whether they have children – anyone can be a victim of abuse.

Often when people think of domestic abuse they think of physical violence, but domestic abuse is very often so much more than that. For many women who live with domestic abuse there will be no scars, bruises or broken bones, but for some it can take their life. No one kind of abuse is more serious than any other.

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If you feel scared of your partner or if you are worried about someone you know, get in touch with Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or visit

Recognising domestic abuse

Domestic abuse isn’t a one off – it usually happens again and again and the abusive partner will try different things to gain control. It usually gets worse over time, and for many women it can continue even after the relationship has ended.

Some of the different ways an abuser will try to control his partner include:

  • Making threats to hurt her or any children
  • Throwing objects at her which causes fear even when if they miss
  • Calling her names and making her feel bad about herself
  • Making rules about how she does things, like what she is allowed to wear
  • Stopping her from seeing, or making it hard for her to see friends and family
  • Being jealous of the time she spends with others or doing things without him
  • Phoning or texting her all the time and/or expecting her to reply to them as soon as they have contacted her
  • Checking her phone and social media accounts
  • Hitting her
  • Putting pressure on her to have sex
  • Being nice to her, buying her gifts and making promises about what they will do together
  • Telling her she’s a bad mum and telling the children not to do what she says

Often the abuser will tell his partner that it is her fault that he is behaving this way and that she is making him act like this. This is not true. He says this to make her feel responsible and guilty so that he has more control over her.

Lots of people think that domestic abuse only means physical violence. This is a problem, because it can stop women from asking for help or support because “at least they don’t hit me”. More than anything, domestic abuse is about control.

 Domestic abuse is never the victim's fault.

Forms of abuse

Emotional / Verbal Abuse



  • Calling you names and putting you down
  • Refusing to trust you and acting jealously or accusing you of cheating
  • Trying to stop you from seeing family or friends
  • Demanding that you tell him where you go, who you call and who you spend time with
  • Putting rules in place about how you do things, for example how long you have to answer calls or texts
  • Trapping you in your home and stopping you from leaving
  • Making threats to hurt you, your children or others you care about including pets
  • Giving you the silent treatment
  • Blaming you for the the way he behaves or saying that you are making it up
  • Cheating on you
  • Telling you what to wear, whether you can wear makeup or not
  • Telling you that you can’t do anything right,
  • Threatening that he will have the children taken from you if you leave
  • Telling you that you have no rights because of your immigration status and that you will be deported
  • Making you feel like a bad parent, telling the children not to listen to you
  • Threatening to hurt himself


Physical Abuse
  • Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking you
  • Stopping you from sleeping
  • Controlling what you eat
  • Hurting you with objects or weapons; for example throwing the remote control at you or threatening you with scissors
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol
  • Harming your children, family or pets
Financial Abuse




  • Giving you money and making you tell him how you have spent it
  • Not letting you have any access to the bank account or money
  • Stopping you from working
  • Taking out debt in your name or making you take on debt for him
  • Not giving you money towards household bills when he lives with you
  • Not paying maintenance for children when the relationship has ended


Sexual Abuse and Coercion



  • Calling you a slut, whore or other names
  • Pressuring you into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Making you feel guilty or like you owe him sex through threats or force
  • Hurting you with objects during sex 
  • Involving other people in sexual activities with you without your consent
  • Ignoring you if you say you don’t want to have sex
  • Forcing you to watch pornography or to participate in the making of it
  • Withholding or controlling your access to contraception and protection
  • Threatening to share intimate images of you with your friends, family, community or online


Digital Abuse



  • Watching your social media accounts i.e. keeping track of who likes your posts, who messages you
  • Sending you negative or insulting messages
  • Using technology to track your movements and activities
  • Sending you explicit pictures without your consent and demanding you send them in return
  • Constantly texting you and making you feel you can’t be separated from your phone
  • Insisting that you give them your passwords to your email or your social media accounts


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