Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship. But it isn’t just physical violence – domestic abuse includes emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse.

Abusive behaviour can occur in any relationship. It can continue even after the relationship has ended. Both men and women can be abused or abusers.

Domestic abuse can seriously harm children and young people. Witnessing domestic abuse is child abuse, and teenagers can suffer domestic abuse in their relationships. 

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Signs, symptoms and effects

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of domestic abuse.

Identifying the signs of domestic abuse

Keeping children safe

Domestic abuse can seriously harm children and young people. Learn more about how you can help protect children from domestic abuse.

Keeping children safe from domestic abuse

Types of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can include:

  • sexual abuse and rape (including within a relationship)
  • punching, kicking, cutting, hitting with an object
  • withholding money or preventing someone from earning money
  • taking control over aspects of someone's everyday life, which can include where they go and what they wear
  • not letting someone leave the house
  • reading emails, text messages or letters
  • threatening to kill or harm them, a partner, another family member or pet.

Children and young people witnessing domestic abuse

Witnessing domestic abuse is really distressing and scary for a child, and causes serious harm. Children living in a home where domestic abuse is happening are at risk of other types of abuse too. Children can experience domestic abuse or violence in lots of different ways. They might:

  • see the abuse
  • hear the abuse from another room
  • see a parent's injuries or distress afterwards
  • be hurt by being nearby or trying to stop the abuse

Teenagers experiencing domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can happen in any relationship, and it affects young people too. 

They may not realise that what's happening is abuse. Even if they do, they might not tell anyone about it because they're scared of what will happen, or ashamed about what people will think.

Around 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse.

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. 17.5% said they had been exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their home (see p. 47).

More about domestic abuse

Who is affected by domestic abuse

It doesn't matter what your age, race, gender or sexuality is - anyone can be affected by domestic abuse.

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Facts and statistics

Facts and statistics about domestic abuse.

See latest domestic abuse statistics

Legislation, policy and guidance

Legislation, policy and guidance about domestic abuse.

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What you can do

Our research helps children like Alfie

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It's Time to demand change

Up to 90% of children who've been abused will develop mental health issues by the time they're 18.

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