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Talk about abuse

Let’s talk about abuse



Last year more than 1.5 million people in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse. If you think your friend may be experiencing abuse, ask if they’re OK.


What is domestic violence?

The Government’s definition of domestic violence covers controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between people aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. It includes the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional abuse.

Domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and carried out by men, but also happens in same sex relationships. Men can also experience domestic violence.

Many kinds of domestic violence such as physical assault, wounding, sexual assault, rape, threats to kill and harassment are criminal offences.

What is child abuse?

There is no clear legal definition of ‘child abuse’ but there are laws to protect children from harm. For example local authorities and certain other agencies or organisations that come into contact with children have a legal duty to protect them if they are:

  • under 18, and
  • suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm.

Harm to a child means ill treatment or damage to their health or development. Here are some examples of things which would cause harm and where a child would need protection.

Emotional abuse

This is treatment which causes serious damage to a child’s emotional development.

Examples include:

  • constant or unjust punishment
  • withholding affection
  • telling a child that they are worthless
  • not giving a child opportunities to express their views
  • preventing a child from taking part in normal social interaction
  • letting a child see or hear the ill-treatment of someone else, for example, in a domestic violence situation
  • serious bullying, including cyber bullying, causing the child to feel frightened or in danger

All forms of abuse involve some emotional ill-treatment. The abuse could be intentional or unintentional.

Sexual abuse

This is where a child is made to take part in sexual activities, whether or not they know what’s happening and whether or not there is a threat of violence. It may involve:

  • physical contact, for example, inappropriate touching or sexual assault
  • non-contact activities, such as showing children pornographic images or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet)
  • using young people in prostitution. All young people under 18 used in prostitution are victims of child sexual abuse
  • female genital mutilation.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse happens where a perpetrator uses financial means to control you and may include any of the following:

  • stopping the victim working
  • controlling the household finances including wages, benefits and bank accounts
  • forcing the victim to hand over wages and money
  • persuading or forcing the victim to take out loans and credit in her/his name.

If you have been pressurised or bullied to take out loans or credit in your name, the debt may be unenforceable. This is a complex area and you will need to get advice.


Honour-based abuse

Honour-based abuse is defined as an incident or crime which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and or community. Honour-based abuse happens where a person is punished by their family or community for doing things that are not in keeping with the traditional beliefs of their culture. For example, you may suffer honour-based abuse because you:

  • resist an arranged marriage
  • resist a forced marriage
  • have a partner from a different culture or religion
  • live a westernised lifestyle
  • want a divorce.

Honour-based abuse may include domestic abuse, sexual or psychological abuse, assault, forced marriage or sending someone back to their country of origin.


To find out more visit: Domestic violence and Abuse 

and Child Abuse