What Does Domestic Abuse Look Like?

Are you concerned that you may be using abusive behaviour towards someone you love? If so, you’re in the right place. Firstly, let’s talk a bit more about what domestic abuse can look like.

Domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour aimed at establishing power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic abuse can take various forms, and is not limited to physical violence; it can also be emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse.


Physical abuse involves using force to cause harm or injury. This can include, but isn’t limited to:

  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Punching, or any form of physical aggression


Emotional abuse is less visible but equally harmful. It includes behaviours that undermine someone’s self-worth, such as:

  • Constant criticism
  • Putting them down
  • Making them feel bad about themselves
  • Name calling
  • Making them think they’re ‘crazy’
  • Playing mind games
  • Guilt tripping
  • Manipulation
  • Humiliation

Psychological abuse aims to control the victim’s thoughts and emotions, often affecting their mental health.


Controlling what somebody does, who they see, and where they go can severely damage their mental health. This includes:

  • Limiting people to outside involvement
  • Using jealousy to justify actions


Intimidating somebody is to make them afraid by using looks, actions, and gestures, and can include:

  • Smashing things
  • Destroying property
  • Abusing pets
  • Displaying weapons


This often involves making light of the abuse and not taking their concerns about it seriously, and can include:

  • Saying the abuse didn’t happen
  • Shifting responsibility for the abusive behaviour
  • Saying they ‘caused it’


Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse, and is when somebody discredits someone’s memories, perception, and sanity by:

  • Denying what they say
  • Lying
  • Spreading false information
  • Manipulating them into questioning their own beliefs


A parent using their child to emotionally abuse a partner can include:

  • Making them feel guilty about the children
  • Using the children to relay messages
  • Using visitation to harass them
  • Threatening to take the children away


Male privilege is a system of advantages or rights that are available to men on the basis of their sex. Using this against a partner can look like:

  • Making all the big decisions
  • Acting like the ‘master of the castle’
  • Being the one to define men’s and women’s roles


Financial abuse is controlling someone’s financial resources, limiting their access to money and therefore their independence. This form of abuse can look like:

  • Withholding funds
  • Preventing employment
  • Coercing financial decisions
  • Not giving access to family income


Sexual abuse involves unwanted sexual acts or coercion against someone’s will. It is a violation of personal boundaries and can have severe long-term consequences on the victim’s mental and emotional well-being.


Digital abuse can look like:

  • Continuously monitoring someone’s online activity, for example through their social media or email.
  • Using online platforms to abuse an individual
  • Using GPS software to track an individual’s movements
  • Online stalking and harassment via platforms such as emails


Post Separation Abuse occurs once a relationship has ended, and is often in the form of:

  • Coercive control
  • Allegations
  • Abusive parenting

If you can see some of these behaviours in yourself, you’ve done the right thing in getting help. It’s not too late to use your strength to change, not control.

Our change programmes can give you the information and tools you may need to change your life.

We can help you to build healthier relationships in your life, identify your triggers and behaviour patterns, and ultimately move on from your abusive behaviour for good. For your partner, for your children, for you.

Find out more about the support on offer, here →

Refer to our service and take steps towards using healthier and more respectful behaviour in your relationship(s) →