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What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is when a person hurts, bullies or takes away the choices of someone they have a close relationship with. They might be dating, living together, married or have children together. It can involve someone a person used to be with.

In all relationships there can be difficult times. People can argue, disagree and say or do things that can be hurtful. What’s different about domestic abuse is that it causes one person to be scared of the other. Also, it doesn’t just happen once.

What does domestic abuse involve?

Abusers can hurt others in many different ways:

  • Physically - by hitting, kicking, punching, pushing, slapping
  • Emotionally - by threatening them, making them feel bad about themselves, stopping them from seeing friends and  family
  • Financially - by not giving them any money, not letting them work or controlling all the money
  • Sexually - by forcing them to have sex or watch sexual behaviour and touching them against their will.

Why does domestic abuse happen?

Mostly, women and children are the people who are hurt by domestic abuse and men are the people who abuse. But some men do experience domestic abuse as do people in same sex relationships. The reason that more women experience domestic abuse may be that until quite recently it used to be acceptable (and even legal) for men to hurt their wives if they did not obey them.

People choose to be abusive. Some abusers say they were drunk or had taken drugs. But drinking or drugs do not cause domestic abuse, although they can make it worse. Some people say they were feeling stressed at the time or that the other person was ‘asking for it’. This is not true. These are just excuses. No one makes someone else abusive. No one deserves to be abused. Any type of abuse is wrong. The person it is happening to is never to blame.

There are lots of myths about domestic abuse.

How does it affect children and young people?

People often think that domestic abuse doesn’t affect children and young people. Adults sometimes think that they can hide what’s going on. But children and young people often hear or see what’s happening. They might hear shouting and hitting, or see their mum upset or injured. Often they are nearby when it’s happening. Some children and young people are also hurt by the abuser.

If this is happening to you, you may feel scared, angry, upset, depressed, guilty or confused. Whatever you feel is OK. There are no right or wrong feelings.

Domestic abuse is not your fault. The person who abuses is responsible - not you or anyone else.

Did you know?

  • One in five women experiences domestic abuse
  • There were 4,789 reported incidents of domestic abuse to Tayside Police in 2011-12
  • 100,000 children in Scotland experience domestic abuse
  • Nine out of ten children are in the same or next room during incidents of domestic abuse .
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© Dundee Women's Aid 2013