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Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a pattern of harmful behaviour that is used by someone to control or obtain power over their partner, ex-partner or family member.  It can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or sexual orientation. Domestic abuse is harmful to children who hear or witness it.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 defines domestic abuse as:

Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is "domestic abuse" if:

  1. A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and
  2. the behaviour is abusive.

Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following:

  1. physical or sexual abuse;
  2. violent or threatening behaviour;
  3. controlling or coercive behaviour;
  4. economic abuse (see subsection (4));
  5. psychological, emotional or other abuse;

and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

Personally connected

The term 'personally connected' means any of the following:

  • They are, or have been, married to each other;
  • They are, or have been, civil partners of each other;
  • They have agreed to marry one another;
  • They are, or have been in an intimate personal relationship with each other;
  • They each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship with the same child;
  • They are relatives.

Controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships is a crime in its own right, under Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. 

Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.

The cross-Government definition of domestic violence and abuse outlines controlling or coercive behaviour as follows:

  • Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
  • Coercive behaviour is: a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour

The types of behaviour associated with coercion or control may or may not constitute a criminal offence in their own right. It is important to remember that the presence of controlling or coercive behaviour does not mean that no other offence has been  committed or cannot be charged. However, the perpetrator may limit space for action and exhibit a story of ownership and entitlement over the victim. Such behaviours might include (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • isolating a person from their friends and family;
  • depriving them of their basic needs;
  • monitoring their time;
  • monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
  • taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they
    can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
  • depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist
    support or medical services;
  • repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
  • enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise
    the victim;
  • forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting,
    neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent
    disclosure to authorities;
  • financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a
    person a punitive allowance;
  • threats to hurt or kill;
  • threats to a child;
  • threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to ‘out’
  • assault;
  • criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
  • rape;
  • preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.

Some factors can make people more vulnerable to domestic abuse, prevent them from reporting it or increase the risk:


According to a Public Health England report, Disability and domestic abuse: Risk impacts and response (2015), disabled people experience disproportionately higher rates of domestic abuse.  They also experience domestic abuse for longer periods of time, and more severe and frequent than non-disabled people. 

According to a SafeLives Spotlight #2: Disabled people and domestic abuse, whilst disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled women, this isn't reflected nationally in the referrals to MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference).

Being reliant on a partner or family member for care can make it much more difficult for adults at risk who are experiencing domestic abuse to seek help. This can be because of physical barriers created by the perpetrator or because they are afraid of what will happen and how they will manage without the perpetrator.

Same sex relationships and domestic abuse

This is still very much a hidden area and prevalence data is limited, however studies indicate that domestic abuse within same sex relationships affects around 1 in 4 Lesbian, Gay and bi-sexual people, and for Trans people this is much higher.  

A Safe Lives Spotlight Report 'Free to Be Safe: LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse' (September 2018) concluded that:

  • Statutory and non-statutory services were missing opportunities to identify LGBTQ+ victims, survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse
  • LGBT+ victims were experiencing high levels of risk and complex needs before accessing support
  • LGBT+ victims and survivors need support tailored to their needs and circumstances
  • A victim's sexual orientation or gender identity can sometimes be targeted as part of the abuse
  • Societal attitudes and lack of inclusion were preventing LGBT+ victims survivors from accessing the support they need.

Galop have produced resarch 'An isolated place': LGBT+ domestic abuse survivors' access to support and additional barriers faced.

Older Adults

Older adults aged 61+ are much more likely to experience domestic abuse from an adult family member or intimate partner than those aged 60 or under (SafeLives Insights, 2015-2016).

Older people can face additional barriers that prevent them from telling anyone about the abuse they are experiencing. This can be linked to their generational expectations, lack of knowledge or understanding of domestic abuse, lack of financial independence and lack of knowledge of support available and how to access it.

Dewis Choice is a project run by Aberystwyth University and provides a dedicated service service for older people who've experienced domestic abuse.  

As part of their work, they have been able to understand the experiences of older people and use this to develop resources for practitioners which includes toolkits, practitioner guidance, videos and podcasts.

They have also adapted the Power and Control wheel to reflect the experiences of older people experiencing domestic abuse.

Male Victims

Male victims can face additional barriers that make it more difficult for them to disclose abuse / seek help.  The Greater Manchester Domestic Abuse Practitioner Community has identified the following barriers:

  • Fear of not being believed or being discriminated against
  • Shame / embarrassment / feeling emasculated / humiliation
  • Lack of awareness of support services available to them
  • Fear of consequences - child contact, tenancies / home, financial
  • GBTQ+ men - fear of homophobia can prevent disclosure
  • Not being aware that what they are experiencing is domestic abuse
  • Societal response - narrative and attitudes that men can't be victims of domestic abuse
  • Lack of services / clear signposting to services for men, including refuge / safe accommodation
  • Lack of communications campaigns for men

Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage

Being in a 'forced marriage' can make domestic abuse more difficult to report. The government has published guidance on forced marriage.

With honour based abuse, there are often multiple perpetrators, such as family members, extended family and/or other members of the community.


Intersectionality recognises that people are multi-faceted and can experience abuse / barriers as a result of multiple characteristics.  For example, a disabled lesbian woman, may experience cumulative barriers to reporting abuse.  

A venn diagram showing how gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation can all overlap.


Safe in Salford Domestic Abuse Service

'Safe in Salford' provides a 'one front door' domestic abuse support service in Salford. There are five elements to the partnership:

  • Crisis Service (Independent Domestic Violence Advocates, or IDVAs) for Victims
  • Advice and Support Service for Victims
  • Specialist Support for GPs (known as IRIS)
  • Children and Young People’s Support – Harbour
  • Behaviour Change Programmes for Perpetrators

Professionals can refer people into the service using the appropriate referral form. The Adult Referral Form incorporates the DASH Risk Assessment. If the person is assessed as being high risk, based on the DASH Risk Assessment or on professional judgement, then they should be referred to MARAC (see below). 

MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference)

Risk assessment and referral to MARAC

All cases referred to MARAC must be risk assessed using the Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Identification Checklist often referred to as the DASH or DASHRIC.  This is part of the Safe in Salford Adult Referral Form.

Frontline staff are expected to have some understanding of the complexities involved in domestic abuse cases and use the DASH to assess the risk and support the victim / survivor to access support services.  All staff in contact with the public should access the relevant single or multi-agency domestic abuse training. 

The agencies attending MARAC include the police, children's services, adult social care, health, Safe in Salford and housing. They discuss each case, the risks and agree which measures should be taken to mitigate the risks.

The current criteria for referral to MARAC are:

  • Several recent incidents (three incidents in three months)
  • 14 ticks on the DASH risk assessment
  • Reports of one serious incident either by disclosure to an agency or directly to the police
  • Professional judgment (whilst the 3 above criteria are very clear indicators, it is acknowledged there will be cases that do not meet any of those thresholds but there are other factors that a professional involved may be aware of that make them significantly worried for the safety of the individual and therefore there is always scope for a professional  to refer into MARAC with the detail of what their concerns are even if for example there are not 14 ticks on the DASH)

Where frontline staff complete a DASH assessment, the points score is under the 14 point threshold and the professional does not have the same significant level of concern, the person can still be referred to the Safe in Salford domestic abuse service.

Safe in Salford are responsible for the support of victims of domestic violence and will consider if they can offer any support in the circumstances.

Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC) can facilitate a more proactive approach in high risk cases. 

Domestic Abuse and Safeguarding

If an Adult at risk is experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse, they should be referred into safeguarding.  

If the person experiencing domestic abuse is an adult at risk, the abuse is being perpetrated by a family member and the risk to the adult is assessed to be high, then the adult safeguarding process should be initiated alongside a referral into MARAC in line with government recommended best practice.

MARACs and Adult Safeguarding Conferences often comprise different partner agencies and work in different ways drawing on different resources and perspectives. Although it might appear there is some duplication, this is not the case.

It is essential that where adults at risk meet the criteria for both adult safeguarding and MARAC, that both processes are used to maximise their ongoing safety from further abuse.

The Local Government Association guidance on adult safeguarding gives a very clear account of the interface between adult safeguarding - whose focus is on adults at risk - and domestic abuse, which relates to any adult living in a household setting subject to abuse from a family member.

Domestic Abuse Toolkit

A domestic abuse toolkit which includes information and resources for adults can be found on the Salford Safeguarding Children's Partnership website.


Check with your employer to see what Domestic Abuse training they offer.  This could be face to face or e-learning. SSAB, Salford Safeguarding Children's Partnership and the Community Safety Partnership provide multi-agency training on domestic abuse. 

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021, for the first time, recognises that children who see, hear or experience the effects of domestic abuse of a parent, person with parental responsibility or a relative, they are also a victim of the abuse in their own right.

If you are supporting an adult affected by domestic abuse, then it is important you establish whether there are any children who may be affected and refer them to the Bridge so they can also be supported as part of a Think Family approach.  

Please also refer to the Think Adult - Think Child - Think Family guidance.  

In an emergency, always dial 999

Latest news

Details of all the latest news from Salford Safeguarding Adults Board.

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