What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases, by a partner or ex-partner.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to: -

  • Psychological abuse - Intimidation, threats, belittling, gaslighting (persistently undermining or manipulating someone, so they doubt their own sanity)
  • Physical abuse - Any type of violence against someone such as pushing, hitting, punching, kicking, choking or using weapons
  • Sexual abuse - Any unwanted touching or groping, including pressuring or forcing someone to have sex when they don't want to (rape)
  • Verbal abuse - Belittling, insulting, or demeaning someone with words – alone or in front of others.
  • Financial abuse - Taking control of someone's finances to deny them money and limit their independence
  • Emotional abuse - Being made to feel guilty, emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts)
  • Online abuse - Insulting or threatening someone via social media, messaging, or email
  • Controlling behaviour - Attempting to restrict who someone sees or talks to. Preventing them socialising with friends or family.

Anyone can experience domestic abuse regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status (class), sexuality or background. This is true for both the abuser and the abused.

Some people who experience other forms of discrimination and oppression may face additional barriers to disclosing abuse and finding help, such as migrant women, LGBT+ and Black, Asian and ethnic minority people.

Different kinds of abuse can happen in different contexts. The most prevalent type of domestic abuse occurs in couple relationships, but the definition of domestic abuse also covers abuse between family members, such as teenager to parent or carer.

How many people does it affect?

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the UK will endure domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Two women each week and one man each month are killed in England and Wales by a current or former partner, with an estimated 2.4 million people experiencing domestic abuse last year in England and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, the highest ever number of domestic violence crimes was recorded by police in 2018-19, with 16,575 domestic abuse crimes recorded. In the same year, Scotland recorded 60,641 incidents of domestic abuse.

Why is this a workplace issue?

GMB believes that being a good employer means recognising the shared responsibility to support staff through new or difficult periods in their lives.

Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on individuals and their families. People experiencing domestic abuse are often subject to disciplinary action or job losses, often through no fault of their own.

Those experiencing domestic abuse may feel like their workplace is the only safe place for them and and gives an important opportunity to get support away from their abuser. Other workers are targeted at their workplace, even after they have fled an abusive situation, as their physical workplace maybe a known location to their abuser.

An understanding and effective workplace policy to deal with the impact of domestic abuse is key and will build a more nurturing and safer working environment for all staff. This will encourage greater staff retention and, importantly, economic independence for those individuals living with or fleeing domestic abuse.

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