What is Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence


Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive control used by one person against another in an intimate relationship. A relationship doesn’t have to involve physical violence to be abusive.


Here are some of the different types of violence that are common in relationships that are abusive.

Emotional Violence

Emotional violence is behaviour that does not accord equal importance and respect to another person’s feelings, opinions and experiences. It is often the most difficult to pinpoint or identify. However all forms of violence and controlling behaviour – physical, sexual, financial, social, spiritual – are implicitly emotionally violent and controlling.


Examples of emotional violence include:

  • refusing to listen to or denying a person’s feelings
  • telling a person what they do or do not feel
  • ridiculing or shaming a person
  • making a person responsible for the other’s feelings, blaming or punishing them for how the other feels
  • manipulating a person by appealing to their feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness
  • telling someone directly or indirectly that if she expresses a different point of view then she will cause trouble or that there will be trouble (and implying or telling her that avoiding trouble is more important than how she feels)
  • verbal putdowns and ridiculing any aspect of a woman or child’s being, such as her body, beliefs, occupation, cultural background, skills, friends or family
  • non-verbal actions, such as withdrawal, refusal to communicate, and rude or dismissive gestures.
Physical Violence

Physical violence is any actual or threatened attack on another person’s physical safety and bodily integrity: from hitting, kicking, choking/strangling, punching, and assault with weapons, through to murder. In addition to threatened or actual harm to people, it includes harming or threatening to harm pets or possessions. Smashing property, throwing things, and physical intimidation such as threatening gestures are all acts of physical violence, as is the criminal act of stalking.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is any actual or threatened sexual contact without consent, such as unwanted touching, rape, exposure of genitals and making someone view pornography against their will. Expecting a woman to have sex as a form of reconciliation after using violence against her is a form of sexual violence, because in these circumstances she is unable to withhold consent for fear of further violence. Women with disabilities are believed to experience higher levels of sexual violence—such as unwanted touching by a carer. While some forms of sexual violence are criminal acts, for example, sexual assault and rape, many other forms— such as using degrading language—are not.

Social Violence

Social violence is behaviour that limits, controls or interferes with a woman’s social activities or relationships with others, such as controlling her movements and denying her access to family and friends. Other forms of social control include excessive questioning, monitoring her movements and social communications, being aggressive towards men who are viewed as ‘competition’, and acts of jealousy. Monitoring internet use, intercepting emails or harassment via social networking sites are other examples of behaviours that control women’s social connectedness.

Financial Violence

Financial violence includes not giving a woman access to her share of the family’s resources, expecting her to manage the household on an impossibly low amount of money and/or criticising and blaming her when she is unable to, monitoring her spending, and incurring debts in her name.

Spiritual Violence

Spiritual violence is any behaviour that denigrates a woman’s religious or spiritual beliefs, or prevents her from attending religious gatherings or practising her faith. It also includes harming or threatening to harm women or children in religious or occult rituals, or forcing them to participate in religious activities against their will.

Other controlling behaviour

Some men control women in ways that do not fit the above descriptions or that are not—on the surface—violent, but still deny a woman’s right to autonomy and equality. Examples of this are acts like a man always ‘losing’ the car keys or being late to look after the children when she wants to do something he disapproves of.