Domestic abuse is defined by the Scottish Government and the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 as controlling, coercive, threatening, abusive, degrading and/or violent behaviour (including sexual violence) perpetrated by a partner or an ex-partner.
This includes spouses, civil partners, couples who live together or any other close intimate relationship such as boyfriend and girlfriend.
Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control)
- Physical, verbal and/or emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that covers not just physical abuse but also other forms of abuse, including psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour.
It redefines domestic abuse as a course of behaviour towards a partner that is intended to cause them harm or which is reckless as to whether it causes harm.
The offence is gender neutral, meaning it can apply to relationships between any two people.
The Act also considers whether a child has been involved in the offence.
According to the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021, there is significant evidence of links between domestic abuse and emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and children themselves can experience domestic abuse as "coercive control" of the whole family environment, not just of their parent or loved one.
People of any gender can be victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. No matter their gender, it is important to consider gender-specific situations and power relations between women and men which may impact on those involved.