What is domestic abuse and violence?

As defined by the Domestic Act 2021, the

"behaviour of a person (A) towards another person (B) is "domestic abuse" if A and B are each aged 16 or over, are personally connected to each other and the behaviour is abusive."

Abusive behaviour can include:

  • physical or sexual abuse
  • violent or threatening behaviour
  • controlling or coercive behaviour
  • economic abuse and psychological, emotional or other abuse.  "Economic abuse" means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to acquire, use or maintain money or other property, or obtain goods or services.

It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.


Two people are "personally connected" to one another if any of the following applies:

  • they are, or have been, married to each other
  • they are, or have been, civil partners of each other
  • they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated 
  • they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated) “civil partnership agreement” has the meaning given by section 73 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004;
  • they are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other
  • they each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child (under 18) ie: the person is a parent or the person has parental responsibility for the child. "Parental responsibility" has the same meaning as in the Children Act 1989
  • they are relatives. “Relative” has the meaning given by section 63(1) of the Family Law Act 1996.


Economic abuse

Economic abuse has been specifically included as it is a distinct type of abuse.  Economic abuse involves behaviours that interfere with an individual’s ability to acquire, use and maintain economic resources such as money, transportation and utilities.  It can be controlling or coercive. It can make the individual economically dependent on the abuser, thereby limiting their ability to escape and access safety.

Examples of economic abuse include:

  • having sole control of the family income;
  • preventing a victim from claiming welfare benefits;
  • interfering with a victim’s education, training, or employment;
  • not allowing or controlling a victim’s access to mobile phone/transport/utilities/food;
  • damage to a victim’s property