Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence refers to the use of physical or emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence, in close adult relationships. This includes violence perpetrated by a spouse, partner, son, daughter, or any other person who has a close or blood relationship with the victim. The term “domestic violence” goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve emotional abuse; the destruction of property; isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support; threats to others includ- ing children; stalking; and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone.” (Report of the Task Force on Violence Against Women, 1997). 


What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is one of the most commonly unreported crimes in Ireland. One in five women in Ireland in addition to men and children will experience domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse, also frequently called domestic violence, refers to the use of physical or emotional force or the threat of physical force, or sexual violence, in close adult relationships. This includes violence perpetrated by a spouse, partner, son, daughter or any other person who has a close or blood relationship with the victim. The term ‘domestic abuse’ goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve: emotional abuse; destruction of property; isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support; threats to others including children; stalking; and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation or the telephone.

In the majority of incidences of violence against women, including that of sexual assault, the attacker is not a stranger but is known to the victim and is likely to have, or have had an intimate relationship with the woman. Whether it is sexual assault, rape, physical assault or emotional abuse, women are at greater risk from husbands, boyfriends, male relatives and acquaintances than from strangers. Violent attacks of this nature are rarely once-off occurrences, but are likely to be persistent and frequent with the objective of instilling fear in victims.

(Source: The Task Force Report on Violence Against Women 1997).

Domestic abuse happens in all kinds of relationships. It can take place between couples – whether they are married, dating or co-habiting, and whether or not they have children. It can take place between family members – such as mother and son, father and daughter or uncle and niece. The abuser may be a man or a woman.

What are the types of domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse takes place when one person behaves aggressively towards another person; that person may be a spouse, girlfriend or a boyfriend.

Domestic abuse can be:

  • physical
  • emotional or verbal
  • sexual
  • financial

See also: mental health


Physical abuse includes:

  • being pushed, punched and slapped
  • being beaten with an object or weapon
  • being kicked
  • being stabbed
  • being spat and urinated on
  • being bitten
  • being pulled by the hair
  • having your head banged off walls etc.
  • being burnt or scalded
  • being beaten and raped
  • being thrown down the stairs
  • property being destroyed including e.g. cars, furniture, clothes, or the home
  • putting your physical safety at risk through reckless behaviour e.g. while driving

Emotional/verbal abuse includes:

  • name calling and constantly being put down
  • roaring and shouting at you
  • controlling or criticising what you wear and not allowing you to wear make up
  • accusations of being unfaithful
  • keeping you awake with constant talking, questioning or making accusations
  • controlling your movement and who you talk to
  • checking your car mileage
  • checking your phone calls, text messages and emails
  • threatening to harm or kill you or your children
  • threatening to harm or kill himself if you leave or tell others
  • threatening to report you to social welfare, social services, etc.
  • isolating you from your family and friends
  • taking your car keys and phone so that you are unable to seek help
  • following you from room to room or checking on where you are going or where you are
  • threats to harm pets

Additionally emotional abuse is a highly effective means of establishing a power imbalance within a relationship. It is often unseen or intangible to those outside the relationship. Emotional abuse is as harmful as physical violence. It often involves CONTEMPT AND DISRESPECT threats of and actual physical or sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse includes:

  • being raped
  • being forced to take part in sexual acts against your will
  • being made to feel that it’s your duty to have sex with your partner
  • your partner demanding sex or sexual acts
  • being forced to watch and/or use pornography or other sexual aids
  • being forced to have sex with another person or persons other than your partner

Financial abuse includes:

  • taking control of the money in the household
  • not being allowed to have your own income
  • not being allowed to have a payment in your own name
  • having to account for everything you spend, including producing receipts
  • not being allowed to buy personal items
  • withholding money unless you do what he tells you
  • denying money for food, clothes, bills, etc.
  • non-payment of bills and leaving you in debt or without utilities etc.
  • spending all the money on his addictions, such as alcohol, gambling and drugs.

Why do some men abuse?

Generally, men who abuse do it to control their partner. The abuser may believe that, as the man, he is head of the household or family and has the right to make all the decisions. This is not true. You have the right to make decisions that affect you. You have the right to your own opinions, to express them, and to be taken seriously.

Society makes it easier for abuse to continue by ignoring the seriousness of domestic abuse. This is partly because, in the past, many people believed that what went on in people’s home’s was their own private business, including domestic abuse.

Now the law states that domestic abuse is a crime. It is recognized that women have the right to a life free from abuse. Society must say NO to domestic abuse if it is to end.

Living with Domestic Abuse

It is not easy to accept that someone you love and have trusted is being abusive towards you. Many women blame themselves or make excuses for this behavior until they recognize the abuse for what it is. If you are confused or worried about your partners behavior towards you take the following relationship quiz, which may help you to recognize and identify some of the typical behaviors in an abusive relationship.

You have the right to control your own life and to change it if you are not happy with it as it is.

Making the decision to leave the relationship.

It is important to give yourself time out to think about what is the best thing for you to do. You need to make the decision that feels right for you. You may decide that you want to make a new beginning in an independent life away from the abuse. You may decide that you want to stay in the relationship with the hope that the abuse will end. You may decide that you need a break from the relationship for a while.

It may not feel like it is your decision to start with. You may feel that you can’t think about what you want, but only what he wants. Take one day at a time and see what seems to be the right thing to do for now.

It is not always easy to work out what to do for the best. You will make a decision when you are ready. You know your own situation better than anyone else. For some women, a decision is quickly made. For others, it is a long process. Many women leave and return to the relationship several times.

Options that may help you decide about your and your children’s future:

  • talking to a women’s service support worker
  • joining a support group for women in abusive relationships
  • engaging in individual counselling
  • joining a personal development course

Can Individual counselling help?

Counselling is a confidential talking therapy where you have the opportunity to explore your feelings and concerns. An accredited counselor may help you to think about what it is you want to change and how you want to change it. If you go to individual counselling it may help you, but it will not stop his abusive behavior. If you are considering counselling, it is important to engage with a counselor who has experience of domestic abuse situations. I have worked in this area for several years and have a vast amount of experience of the issues involved. Alternatively I am always happy to offer advice or to provide assistance in contacting other counselors or Domestic Abuse services.

Can the abuse stop without ending the relationship?

Domestic abuse is rarely a one-off event. There may be good times in the relationship, but tension may build up again and the abuse returns. He may tell you that he is sorry and promise to change, but this promise may be broken. If he accepts that he is doing something seriously wrong, and he takes action to change, there is a chance that he may stop his abuse. This is unlikely if he does not take responsibility for his abuse. If he is serious about taking responsibility he will engage with a service that may be helpful to him such as MOVE (Men Overcoming Violence).

It is important to remember that the violent person is responsible for changing their behaviour- not you.

For example, have they:

  • Accepted that they are doing something seriously wrong?
  • Taken responsibility for stopping the abuse
  • Made the phonecalls or contacts theya may lead them to change
  • Joined a programme to help them change their behaviour
  • Started going regularly to one to one counselling to help them change their behavour.
  • Made any changes
  • Stopped being abusive

Do you see clear signs that they are stopping their abusive behaviour?

 For example, do you:

  • Feel safe
  • Give your opinion freely without feeling intimidated when they are around
  • Go out with your friends and family when it suits you
  • Go to bed and sleep when it suits you
  • Have equal control over important household decisions, such as money and the children
  • Believed they are likely to change
  • Believe they have changed
  • Believe, if things have improved, that they will be like this in six months.

Making the decision to stay in the relationship

 What can you do to protect yourself?

If you are staying in the relationship, either just for now or for the long term, you can take steps to help protect yourself from the abuse.

 Ask for help

 I can offer you counselling and put you in touch with Women’s refuges and support services who can offer you support and information to help you to protect yourself.

Write a Safety Plan

 A ‘Safety Plan’ will help you to be prepared for action if at some point you need to leave the house in a hurry to protect yourself and your children.

You can make your own Safety Plan – click here to see the Adapt House Safety Plan Guide.

You may feel that your partner will never be abusive towards you again, but it is still a good idea to make a Safety Plan. Just in case you ever need to put it into action, it will always be ready.

If you feel you are in danger at any time you can call the Gardai. They have a duty to help and protect you. For a list of local Garda stations click here or to see the Garda Siochana Victims Charter click here.

Seek legal protection

 You can take legal action to help protect you from the abuse while you are in the relationship. The best option for many women is to apply for a safety order from the district court. This requires your partner not to use or threaten abuse towards you and the children. If he breaks a safety order the Gardai can arrest him – click here to bring you to the Adapt House website page which will provide you with more information on legal protection. Anthony can all the above links go to the pages that they bring you too when you click on them.

I would like the quick escape or cover your tracks links on my domestic violence and sexual assault pages as are on the adapt domestic abuse services website please, or something similar.


The effects of Domestic Abuse on you Health

Many women minimise the effects of domestic abuse on their health. You may try to hide your physical injuries or not get medical attention for them. You may be under severe mental and emotional stress, but not recognise that the main cause is your partner’s abusive behaviour.

Effects on Mental Health

 Domestic abuse causes more than bruises and physical injuries. Women often say that coping with the emotional and mental abuse is the most difficult.

65% of women who experience abuse from a partner reported suffering from depression (Making the Links, 1995). If you feel you are suffering from stress or depression, it can help to talk to someone. The first step may be going to your doctor or calling a helpline. Other options include joining a support group for women in abusive relationships or going to individual counselling.

Effects on your Sexual Health

Sexual abuse and domestic violence are often linked

You do not have to take part in any sexual activity with which you are not comfortable. Your partner has committed the crime of rape if he forces you to have sex with him when you don’t want to. Rape is a crime both if you are married and if you are unmarried. Rape within marriage has been a crime in Ireland since 1991. If you are raped or sexually assaulted by your partner, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis Centre for help. Anthony can the above blue sexual abuse bring you to the sexual abuse tab please and here is the link for the rape crisis centres.

Effects on your Physical Health

If you are injured by your abuser, seek medical attention unless you believe it is unsafe to do so. Many women delay getting help. This can lead to further health problems in the future. Ask a friend or relative to go with you to the doctor or hospital if it is difficult to go by yourself. If your partner comes with you, try to talk to the nurse or doctor alone to explain about your injuries and get the best help with recovery. Even if you’re not thinking of seeking legal protection now, you may change your mind later. The record of your visit to the doctor or hospital may be useful as evidence of the abuse at that stage.

 Domestic Abuse often starts with pregnancy

For some women, the abuse starts when they are pregnant. It is important to keep all your appointments with the doctor or hospital when you are pregnant. This can give you some support, and link you in with other services that can help.

Domestic abuse and Addiction

Some women in abusive relationships turn to alcohol or drugs when they are feeling low. You may do this to block out what’s happening. Tranquillisers are prescribed by the doctor for some women. Tranquillisers are medicines used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. If you have been on tranquillisers for more than a few months, your doctor should reassess your condition and whether you should continue to use them. There is a risk you will become dependent on them. If you think you may be addicted to alcohol, drugs or medicines and want to get help, contact your doctor, phone a helpline, join a local support group, or call me for support and information and I will put you in touch with the agencies best suited to helping your needs if I am not able to help you myself.

Where can I go for help with my finances

Click here for answers to questions relating to getting money to start again, applying for financial support, getting help from the Department of social protection, getting financial support from an ex partner and issues related to access and maintance.