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Young peopleyou're not alone

What is abuse?

Domestic abuse (also called domestic violence) happens when one person hurts or bullies another person in the same family. It can also happen between partners who live together or have children together, in same sex relationships and between people who are going out with each other. It can even happen after a relationship has ended and between parents and their older children.

Domestic abuse is different from child abuse. Child abuse is when an adult physically, sexually or emotionally harms or neglects a child under 18.

Domestic violence mostly happens between adults and, usually but not always, it is the man who abuses the woman. However, children and young people can be affected by abuse they see and hear. Sometimes they may be hurt or bullied as part of the domestic abuse between adults.

Young people may also experience abuse from their own boyfriend or girlfriend. Even though young people’s relationships may be different from adult ones, they may experience the same types of abuse that adults do.

Domestic abuse is a repeated pattern of behaviour that often involves several different types of abuse.

Types of abuse that may happen include:

Physical abuse: intentional use of physical force to cause fear or injury, for example hitting, pinching, biting, kicking, using a weapon or throwing objects.

Emotional abuse: may include insults, threats, name calling, constant monitoring or checking up where someone is, humiliation, isolation, making someone feel bad about themselves, or constantly belittling someone.

Financial abuse: restricting access to money or access to bank accounts to exert power and control over a partner, or not allowing someone to have a job.

Sexual abuse: making someone do something sexual that they do not want to do.

Digital abuse: The use of technology – such as texting or social networking – to bully, harass or stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this is actually a form of emotional abuse carried out using technology.


Domestic abuse is NOT caused by alcohol, drugs, stress, ill-health or unemployment. These are all just excuses for an abuser’s behaviour. Domestic abuse is caused by the abuser’s desire for power and control over their partner. The abuser uses repeated, random and habitual destructive behaviour to achieve that control.