Domestic abuse

What is domestic abuse?

A broken blue plate

Domestic abuse refers to situations in which a person is subjected to controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading or violent behaviour including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner but also by family members or carers. Every year, nearly 2 million people in the UK suffer some form of domestic abuse – 1.3 million female victims (8.2% of the population) and 600,000 male victims (4%). Children who see, hear or experience the effects of the abuse are also considered victims of domestic abuse under a new national definition as part of the Domestic Abuse Act (2021).

Domestic abuse means any threats, violence, controlling or coercive behaviour that takes place between family members or people aged over 16 who are in a relationship with each other (or have been in the past). Family members are defined as mother, father, sister, brother and grandparents, whether directly related, in-laws or stepfamily. Domestic abuse can happen regardless of social group, class, age, race, disability or sexuality of the individuals involved. Domestic abuse can affect men, women and those who identify as non-binary. It can occur in any relationship – heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, young or old. It is a pattern of behaviour used by abusers designed to establish and maintain power and control over another person.

Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to, the following:

  • Coercive control and 'gaslighting'
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Financial or economic abuse
  • Harassment or stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

How to spot the signs of domestic abuse

There are a number of ways you may become concerned that someone is being abused:

  • The person might tell you
  • The person might say something that worries you
  • You might see something - an incident, an injury or another sign
  • You can find more information about high risk domestic abuse (HRDA) below

Report domestic abuse

PIPPA is a confidential helpline offering advice, information and support for victims of domestic abuse in Southampton. The helpline is staffed by expert domestic abuse advisers who can give safety advice, guidance and, with consent, referrals to specialist services. PIPPA is also the first single point of contact for professionals, offering advice and information to help improve client safety, carry out risk assessments and make appropriate referrals.

You can call PIPPA on 023 8091 7917 between 9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday, or email

In an emergency, always call 999.

For help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 08082000 247 (24 hours).

Domestic abuse information and resources

Adolescent to parent violence SHOW

Royal College of Nursing Resources SHOW

Information for professionals

Domestic abuse referral pathways

This pathway is available to help professionals make referrals to services for domestic abuse. Read the Southampton Referral Pathway.

Domestic abuse and mental health

This report by SafeLives on Domestic Abuse and Mental Health aims to highlight areas of improvement that can be made to how we, as professionals, support people affected by domestic abuse who are also experiencing mental health problems. The report includes good practice guidance for multi-agency meetings. We know that people experiencing mental health problems will face additional barriers to disclosing, to being believed and to accessing services. As such, they form a “hidden” group whose voices are rarely heard. It is important that we identify these barriers and examine what both frontline practitioners and those with a strategic role can do to ensure that services are more inclusive and responsive.

Actions for commissioners, domestic violence coordinators and managers of specialist and non-specialist services

This poster on 'Getting it Right First Time' from SafeLives lists the Top Ten Actions for commissioners, domestic violence co-ordinators and managers of specialist and non-specialist services.

Adult safeguarding and domestic abuse: a guide to support practitioners and managers

The purpose of this Adult Safeguarding and Domestic Abuse guide from the Local Government Association is to help staff to give better informed and more effective support to people who need an adult safeguarding service because of domestic abuse. It addresses situations where an adult who has care and support needs is being harmed or abused by an intimate partner or close family member in a way which could also be defined as domestic abuse. It does not seek to replace existing safeguarding procedures and it is anticipated that it be read and used in the context of local procedures and protocols.