Domestic abuse - Help and advice

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been an intimate partner or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological and/or emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse or violence
  • Financial or economic abuse
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Online or digital abuse

Domestic abuse includes so-called ‘honour’-based violence such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone.

The following booklet provides information about our plans to tackle domestic abuse in Swindon:

Am I experiencing domestic abuse?

There are many different ways that you can be abused and you could experience any one or more of them. A domestic abuser gains power and control over you to ensure you are intimidated, fearful and scared, and that you comply with their demands and needs.

Domestic abuse can start at any point in your relationship and aims to chip away at your self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. It can start gradually and subtly, so this sometimes means you don’t realise that you are being abused. Some victims are never hurt physically, but the threat of violence may be all that is needed to keep you ‘in your place’. It makes you question your own judgement and become unable to make decisions.

Here are some examples of what you may experience:

Physical abuse:

  • hitting, punching or slapping
  • shoving
  • kicking
  • burning
  • choking
  • using weapons to threaten or harm you

Emotional abuse:

  • calling you names
  • putting you down
  • withholding affection as punishment
  • telling you that you wouldn’t be able to cope without them
  • demanding constant attention

Psychological abuse:

  • blaming you for the abuse
  • denying or minimising the abuse, telling you that you are imagining it
  • making you feel like you are going crazy
  • threats to harm themselves
  • intimidating you
  • putting you down
  • threats to harm others (including children and pets)
  • stalking

Financial abuse:

  • having to account for every penny of household or other money
  • denying access to your own money or money coming into the household
  • not allowing you to work or study and undermining your efforts to do so
  • not paying bills
  • taking out loans, credit cards or mortgages in your name without your knowledge, or forging your signature
  • making you beg for money

Sexual abuse:

  • forcing you to engage in unwanted sexual acts
  • withholding affection and sex
  • refusing to practice safe sex
  • making you wear clothes you haven’t chosen or not allowing you to choose your own clothing
  • sexual name-calling


Stalking is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. Some examples of stalking are:

  • regularly giving unwanted gifts
  • making unwanted communication
  • damaging property
  • repeatedly following you or spying on you
  • threats

Taken in isolation, some of the behaviours may seem like small acts, but together they make up a consistent pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting. It’s important to know that stalking is a criminal offence and because of this, if you go to the police they will take it seriously.  

Leaving no trace of your visit to this page

You can cover your tracks online if you are scared your abuser will see you have visited this page.

When you visit websites, your computer or device logs the details of your visit. It creates a copy of the pages you have looked at in your temporary Internet files.

You can delete both the history of visited websites and the temporary Internet files from your computer. The way you do this varies depending on the type and version of web browser (for example, Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer) you are using. You can check how to do this through a simple Google search, or in the online help/support for your browser. Often, you can find ‘delete functions’ or 'History' options in your browser's ‘Tools’ menu.

You can also switch your browser to 'private' or 'incognito' mode, which means it doesn't log the details of your website visits.

While deleting your temporary Internet Files and history will help reduce the likelihood of discovery, it may not completely cover your tracks. If you want to be completely sure of not being tracked online, the safest way is to access the internet at your local library, a friend’s house, at work or an iplus point.

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