Domestic Abuse

Reporting on domestic abuse

What is it?

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 can happen even when partners are not living together. Domestic abuse does not always include physical violence.

‘Coercive control’ is a term used to describe abusive behaviour. It can take the form of psychological, financial or emotional abuse, including constantly criticising a woman, undermining her self-esteem, isolating her from her friends and family and other support networks and restricting her right to wear what she wants, see who she wants and enjoy leisure time as she pleases.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 created a specific offence of domestic abuse which includes these controlling behaviours – we have a briefing on this on our website.


Tips for reporting

Use “domestic abuse” instead of “domestic violence”. Not all domestic abuse includes physical violence.

Use “domestic abuse” instead of “a domestic” or “a domestic dispute”. These terms frame the incident of violence as a private domestic or family problem and not a crime.

Use “abusive partner” or “woman living with an abusive partner”, instead of “an abusive relationship”. Placing the blame on the relationship or relationship dynamics, rather than on the abuser, is suggesting that both people are equally at fault.

Use “woman who has experienced domestic abuse”, or “a survivor of domestic abuse” instead of “battered woman”.

When referring to children, use “exposed to” or “impacted by”. Don’t refer to children as “witnessing” domestic abuse. Children are not simply ‘witnesses’ to incidents of physical violence, but are impacted and harmed by a range of coercive behaviours.


Download media guidelines

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