What is domestic abuse?

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 does not discriminate although it 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.

” Domestic abuse (as gender based abuse) can be perpetrated by partners or ex partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse such as threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as Isolation from family and friends. ” 

– Scottish Government (2000)

'a thousand words' commissioned by Scottish Womens Aid and Zero Tolerance. Copyright Laura Dodsworth

What does the law say?

In Scotland, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2019 recognises domestic abuse as a crime. The law can prosecute and punish perpetrators if behaviour abusive behaviour that violent, threatening or intimidating and if this behaviour is towards a partner or ex-partner (that includes a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, civil partner or anyone in an intimate relationship; they can be living in the same or
separate housing).
The law also recognises the impact that domestic abuse has on children (defined as any person under the age of 18 years). If a child has been adversely affected when the abuse happened – even if they were not the focus of the abuse
– then the offence is considered worse and can result in a longer sentence.
There are other laws can protect you from harm and abusive behaviours including rape and sexual, stalking, the sharing of intimate images.
Useful information about laws, legal protections that may be available, your rights and telephone helplines are available at:

• Scottish Women’s Aid – www.womensaid.scot
• Scottish Women’s Rights Centre – https://scottishwomensrightscentre.org.uk
• Scottish Child Law Centre – https://sclc.org.uk
• Police Scotland – https://scotland.police.uk

Want to find out how we can help you and/or your children?
'a thousand words' commissioned by Scottish Womens Aid and Zero Tolerance. Copyright Laura Dodsworth

What does this mean for me and my children?

Lots of victims/survivors describe feeling confused, scared, intimidated, pressured or controlled. They describe during every day life that they feel like they are “walking on eggshells” and that they are unable to do anything right and question themselves often. Domestic abuse is dangerous. We know that over time it escalates in severity and frequency.
Take a look at the Warning Signs of domestic abuse to help recognise behaviours that abusers use to control their partner. You might also find it helpful to take a look or listen to personal testimonies:

Lots of victims/survivors describe feeling confused, scared, intimidated, pressured or controlled. They describe during every day life that they feel like they are “walking on eggshells” and that they are unable to do anything right and question themselves often. Domestic abuse is dangerous. We know that over time it escalates in severity and frequency.
Take a look at the Warning Signs of domestic abuse to help recognise behaviours that abusers use to control their partner. You might also find it helpful to take a look or listen to personal testimonies:

'a thousand words' commissioned by Scottish Womens Aid and Zero Tolerance. Copyright Laura Dodsworth

Warning Signs

Answering yes to any of the questions = may be at risk of domestic abuse, signpost to WAEML’s support.

Physical abuse – Does your (ex) partner:

  • punch, kick, slap, grab, bite or choke you.
  • pull or grab your hair
  • prevent you from sleeping
  • control what you eat
  • hurt you with objects or weapons; for example throwing items at you or threatening you with knives, scissors or guns
  • force you to use drugs or alcohol
  • hurt your children, family or pets.

Emotional / Verbal Abuse – Does your (ex) partner:

  • call you names and constantly put you down
  • huff and give you the silent treatment
  • make you feel that you can’t do anything right
  • act jealous or accuse you of cheating
  • question you all the time about where you go, who you speak to and who you spend time with
  • have rules in place about how you do things, for example how to take care of the home, how long you have to get to places or speak to someone
  • lock you in your home or prevent you from leaving
  • make threats to hurt you, your children or others you care about including pets
  • blame you for the way they behave or say that you are making it up.
  • cheat on you
  • criticise how you look or tell you what to wear, whether you can wear makeup or not
  • threaten that they will have the children taken from you if you leave
  • make you feel like a bad parent, telling the children not to listen to you.

Sexual Abuse – Does your (ex) partner:

  • use threats or force you to have sex.
  • use sexualised terms to insult you (e.g. slut, whore, frigid).
  • pressure you into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • hurts you with objects during sex
  • have sex with you when you cannot consent (when you are sleeping, under influence of alcohol or drugs)
  • involve other people in sexual activities with you without your consent
  • forces you to watch pornography or to participate in the making of it
  • prevents use or controls your access to contraception and protection
  • make threats to share intimate images of you with your friends, family, community or online.
Technology – Does your (ex) partner:

  • monitor your social media accounts (i.e. keep track of your friends online, who likes your posts, who messages you)?
  • insist that you give them your passwords or hack into your email / social media accounts?
  • send you threats or insulting messages?
  • constantly message you making you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone?
  • use technology or apps to track your movements and activities (GPS, CCTV)?
  • put pressure on you to take explicit pictures?
  • threaten to or ever share explicit pictures without your consent?

I need help

How can we help you?

'a thousand words' commissioned by Scottish Womens Aid and Zero Tolerance. Copyright Laura Dodsworth

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Talk to someone in confidence,  please call our support line: Monday – Friday 9am – 4pm
Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline open 24/7: