Domestic abuse is a serious and widespread problem that affects millions of people around the world. It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexuality or socioeconomic status. But what exactly is domestic abuse and how can we recognise it?
Women's Aid define domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence. It can take many forms - such as physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological abuse. It can also involve threats, isolation, manipulation, intimidation or coercion.
The shocking reality is that domestic abuse is most often conducted by the people that know us most intimately - partners, ex-partners, family members or carers. There were an estimated 2.4 million cases of domestic abuse in the UK in 2022, which equates to 1.7 million women experiencing some form of abuse. It's women that most experience domestic abuse, and men that perpetrate it.
Domestic abuse is never the fault of the person on the receiving end. They deserve respect and dignity. Experiencing domestic abuse is about power, and it can be hard to break out of an abusive relationship because the perpetrator holds the power.
The United Nations (UN) define domestic abuse as "a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner".
This guide will help you to understand more about domestic abuse, and direct you to sources of information & support, including the Bank Workers Charity who offer a range of services and help to current and former bank workers (including partners and dependents). If you're experiencing domestic abuse or know someone who is, you're not alone. There are many organisations and resources that can help you get support and safety. You have the right to live free from violence and fear.
So, let's learn more about what domestic abuse is.
Who experiences domestic abuse
Domestic abuse can affect anyone, no matter what your age, gender identity, sexuality, race, ethnicity or religious group, socio-economic background, disability or lifestyle.
It can happen within relationships, within families, and even when relationships have ended. Remember, it's not the person experiencing abuse that's at fault. It can happen to any of us, and it'll often happen without us realising what's going on - that's because abusers are able to manipulate the way we see things.
While anybody can experience abuse, there are some things we know about the prevalence:
Types of domestic abuse
We most often associate domestic abuse with physical violence. But domestic abuse encompasses a wider range of behaviours and actions that maintain power and control over someone.
Some examples of domestic abuse are:
Recognising domestic abuse
As we've discussed, domestic abuse can take many forms. It involves controlling, coercive, abusive or violent treatment from someone you’re in a relationship with, have been in a relationship with, or someone who is a family member.
The abuse can be physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, emotional or financial. It might be a one-off occurrence but it’s often a series of incidents that occur over time.
It may not always be clear whether a person’s actions are abusive, and every situation is different, but there are common factors experienced by people who are in an abusive relationship. A healthy relationship should be a loving, respectful and consensual. We should feel supported, happy and free. While you may have boundaries in relationships, there shouldn't be threats of violence, or conditions attached to someone else's love and care for you.
Recognising where abuse is taking place is a crucial step in preventing and stopping it. Support is available to help you every step of the way. If you’re not sure if you are experiencing abuse, you can still access support.
Women's aid has a useful page to help you consider your relationship and to explore unhealthy relationship behaviours.
Abuse may start early in a relationship, but because we're just starting to feel that emotional connection with a new partner, it may go unnoticed. Abuse often goes unnoticed because the abuser is manipulating our emotional state, making us feel special and wanted. A pattern that characterises abusive relationships is a cycle:
During the first stage, there's often emotional outbursts, irritability and impatience. It leaves you feeling like you're walking on eggshells and often means we appease the abuser to try and keep the peace.
But it's never enough, and eventually there is an incident - threats of violence, intimidation, shaming, manipulation or isolation.
When it comes to reconciliation, the abuser may apologise, act like nothing happened or manipulate you into apologising for their actions. Nonetheless peace returns for a time before the cycle starts to repeat.Not sure if your relationship is healthy?
The effects of domestic abuse
The impact of domestic abuse can be devastating for the person experiencing the abuse, and often to those around them such as their children. It can cause physical injuries, mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low self-esteem, substance abuse issues or suicidal thoughts. It can also affect their ability to work, study or socialise.
We also know that domestic abuse impacts mental health – and this can be short-term or long-term. Mental health effects of domestic abuse include:
Child to parent abuse
Child to Parent Abuse (sometimes simply referred to as CPA) is where a child of any age displays repeated abusive behaviours towards a parental figure. It's estimated that child to parent abuse arises in at least 3% of UK homes.
It causes parents to feel fearful, isolated and like they're treading on eggshells. It can force them to leave their jobs or change their routines and lifestyles. It can have a significant impact on families, including siblings.Find out more about child to parent abuse
Find out how the Bank Workers Charity supported Jenny and her son who were affected by domestic abuse.
Get advice from the Bank Workers Charity on getting support for different relationship related issues.
The directory contains details of local and national services specialising in domestic abuse & violence.
Support & contacts
There are many sources of support available to you:
And remember, if you’re an Accord member and need a chat about support at work, call the helpline on 0118 934 1808.
Find more mental health related articles on our website.
Supporting a survivor of abuse
Getting support from an employer
Domestic abuse is a workplace issue, and it may be the only escape that a survivor has in their day from abuse. So, let's talk about what support looks like at work.
The Bank Workers Charity can help assist you finding specialist support. They can also assist with other elements of escaping abuse such as financial grants, or understanding practical support such as entitlement to benefits, or housing options. They also can help with aspects of accessing mental wellbeing support and family support.Access the Bank Workers Charity
Lloyds Banking Group support
Getting support from Accord
We're able to help you navigate your employers' policies in wellbeing support, time off requirements and compassionate support.
Worried and need to cover your tracks
As we've already covered in this guidance, domestic abuse is not just about physical violence. It can often include controlling behaviour such as tracking and monitoring your online activity.
If you're scared your partner will find out you’ve been here, there are some things you can do to cover your tracks. This can help you to seek support without worrying that someone is monitoring your activity from your personal device.
One thing you may be able to do is to use a work device to seek support so that your abuser is unable to monitor or control your activity. We've included a quick exit button on this guidance page so that you can quickly hide this page, but you would still need to delete your history to prevent an abuser from being able to see your activity. You'll see these sorts of quick escape buttons on many of the support pages we mention because we know that seeking support can be dangerous.
Women's aid has produced some guidance on how you can cover your tracks from your abuser online.Find out about covering your tracks
Support for perpetrators of domestic abuse
It's important to offer help and support to a perpetrator. This can help them recognise their abusive behaviours and to change. Below is a list of organisations who offer support and guidance to perpetrators of domestic abuse.
43% of workers says that being in debt makes it difficult to concentrate at work. And more than 16% of UK adults have debt problems.
Don't worry or struggle alone. Confidential expert guidance is available and on hand to help you with budgeting, managing creditors and debt management plans.
Benefits & cash grants
It can be hard to know where to begin when you start looking at state benefits or financial grants. That's why the Bank Workers Charity and others have put guidance together to help you get things organised.
We teamed up with the Bank Workers Charity to look at how we can create a work culture where it's safe to come forward and talk about domestic abuse and access support.Play this video