Tips for reporting on Domestic Abuse

Reporting on domestic abuse

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 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, 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.

Tips for reporting

  • Use ‘domestic abuse’ instead of ‘domestic violence’. Not all domestic abuse is physical violence.
  • Use ‘domestic abuse’ instead of ‘a domestic’ or ‘a domestic dispute’. These terms frame the incident of violence as a private, family problem and not a crime. It also ignores the wider society within which men commit violence.
  • 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, suggests that both people are equally at fault.
  • Don’t refer to children as ‘witnessing’ domestic abuse. Instead, use ‘exposed to’ or ‘impacted by’. Children are not simply ‘witnesses’ to incidents of domestic abuse. They are impacted and harmed by domestic abuse including physical violence and a range of coercive behaviours.


Tip: Check Level Up’s media guidelines for reporting domestic violence deaths.


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Zero Tolerance's Media Guidelines on Violence Against Women and Girls for PrintZero Tolerance's Media Guidelines on Violence Against Women and Girls for Print Zero Tolerance's media guidelines on violence against women and girls are for journalists, editors, and other media professionals.