Womens Support Project

Domestic abuse

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is the mental, physical, financial and/or sexual abuse by a partner or ex-partner.  (The terms ‘domestic abuse’ or ‘domestic violence’ can be used interchangeably.)  In most cases domestic abuse is experienced by women and children and is perpetrated by men. However although abuse of men may be less common, it is no less serious.  Domestic abuse can occur within same sex relationships.

In Equally Safe, the Scottish Government defines domestic abuse as follows:

“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 behaviour), 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 and friends).”

Domestic abuse is common.   One in five women in Scotland experiences domestic abuse at some stage in her life, according to the Scottish Crime Survey [2010/11].  Abusers and victims come from all backgrounds.

Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident. More usually it`s a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour through which the abuser seeks power over their victim. There is evidence that domestic abuse escalates in frequency and intensity over time, and may increase at specific points in a woman`s life (such as, for example, during pregnancy and following the birth of a child) or at particular times (such as separation or divorce).  At its most extreme women may be murdered by their partner.

Witnessing the abuse of their mother is emotional abuse of children.  Children may also experience direct abuse, or may be involved in trying to protect their mother.  Research has been undertaken to explore links between domestic abuse and sexual abuse of children.  See for example Links  [pdf 224kb]

Extent of the Problem

  • 60,080 incidents recorded by the Police in the year 2012/13, up less than half a percent from the previous year
  • 50% of these incidents led to the recording of a crime or offence, 4% lower than in 2011/12.
  • 61% of the cases involved known repeat victimisation
  • 80% of incidents involved a female victim and male perpetrator
  • 42% of the incidents involved cohabitees, or partners.  In 44% of cases, the victim and perpetrator were ex partners or ex spouses. 13% were spouses.  
  • The vast majority of reported incidents (87%) took place in a home/house.

The above figures are taken from the Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Domestic Abuse recorded by the police in Scotland, 2012-13

  • On one day, 18th September 2013, 341 women and 257 children and young people were living in a Women’s Aid refuge in Scotland
  • 82 women and 12 children contacted Women’s Aid groups in Scotland for the first time.  www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk
  • Zero Tolerance study on young people’s attitudes to violence against women – 63% of young women said it was never o.k. to hit a woman and 36% of young men. www.zerotolerance.org.uk/

Effects of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse seriously affects the lives of women, children and young people in all sorts of ways. For further information and details of how to find support in your local area please see www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/  or if you are in England or Wales go to www.womensaid.org.uk/   Or you can contact the Domestic Abuse Helpline.  Calls are free and it is open all day, every day 0800 027 1234.

In an emergency you should contact the police by dialing 999.  You can also speak to police officers about domestic abuse at other times.  Police Scotland offer ‘remote reporting’ for domestic abuse and hate crimes.  For more information please see:www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/advice-for-victims-of-crime/domestic-abuse/remote-recording/

Further information & support

For information on helpful resources please see: WSP reading lists on domestic abuse

For information on support services in the Greater Glasgow area please see:WSP Directory of support services.

The following websites provide helpful information on domestic abuse.

Scottish Women’s Aid
Provides information and training about domestic abuse including housing and legal information and also provides contact details for local Women’s Aid groups.

Scotland`s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage  Helpline
Freephone 0800 027 1234
Information and support to those affected by domestic abuse - open all day, every day.

Helping Hands 
0141 337 6626  Advice line and Drop in on Fridays, 11.00 to 13.00
A new project in Glasgow to support women from Central and Eastern Europe who are experiencing, or have experienced, domestic abuse.    Information and advice in the following languages:  English, Polish, Lithuanian, Czech, Slovak and Russian.  

Freephone 0800 11 11
For children and young people in the UK - to talk about any problem.

Rape Crisis Scotland National Helpline
Freephone 08088 01 03 02
Information and support to anyone aged 13 and over who has experienced sexual violence. Also provides support to family, friends and workers of survivors to help them in their supportive role.

Scottish Child Law Centre
Freephone for under 21`s
0800 328 8970
Free legal advice for under 21`s about any aspect of the law relating to children and young people.

Victim Support Scotland Scottish Helpline
0845 6039 213 (Local Rate)
Provides victims with free and confidential emotional and practical assistance and information about the criminal justice system.

Family Law Association
Provides a point of reference for the public and for other organisations on family law issues.

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