What is domestic violence?

Scottish Executive Definition of Domestic Abuse

The effects of domestic abuse can be wide ranging and include physical injury, poor health and ongoing emotional and mental health difficulties. There have been a range of definitions to describe the abuse of women by partners, however the one adopted by the Project has been drawn up by the Scottish Executive and is outlined in the National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland.

Domestic abuse (as gender-based abuse), can be perpetrated by partners or ex-partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behavior), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse (such as threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as isolation from family or friends).

Categories of Domestic Violence

The following 8 categories of domestic abuse identify the range of experiences that women face when domestic abuse is perpetrated against them.


  • Locks you in the house
  • Isolates you from family and friends
  • Makes you move away from your family
  • You avoid company because he humiliates you/makes things awkward for you/humiliates your friends


  • He physically beats and hurts you
  • You are permanently injured by the violence
  • He deprives you of sleep
  • You are hyper-vigilant, always ‘walking on eggshells’, responding to his ever-changing demands


  • He humiliates you in public
  • He forces you to wear clothes he chooses/or refuses to let you have clothes or shoes
  • He makes the children humiliate you
  • He makes you take part in degrading sex acts with him or with others


  • He says if you ever leave him he will maim you/kill you
  • He tells you he will kill your children
  • He tells you he will get another woman if you don’t do what he wants
  • He tells you he will make sure your children are taken into care

Displays of total

  • He keeps you locked up
  • He takes all your money
  • He takes away your clothes or shoes
  • He forces you to work in prostitution

Enforcing Trivial

  • His meals have to be at exactly the time he says
  • He has to have his clothes washed/ironed/folded a certain way
  • He has to have the house cleaned a certain way
  • He decides what television programmes you watch


  • He buys you a present
  • He cooks you a meal
  • He tells you that you are attractive/he needs you/he loves you
  • He lets you go out with your friends