Domestic violence and abuse

Find out about domestic violence and abuse, coercive control, disclosure scheme, protection notices, domestic homicide reviews and advisers.

The Domestic Abuse Bill consultation is now closed and we are analysing your feedback.

Domestic violence and abuse is unacceptable and addressing the issue is a priority for the government.

Our response to domestic violence and abuse is included within the violence against women and girls action plan

Report abuse

If you are, or someone you know is, a victim of domestic abuse or violence find out how to report domestic abuse and where to get help.

Domestic violence and abuse: new definition

The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is:

any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour

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

Coercive behaviour is an 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.

This is not a legal definition.

Definition of domestic violence and abuse: guide for local areas

To help local areas consider the consider how the extension to the definition of domestic violence and abuse may impact on their services, the Home Office, in partnership with Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) has produced a guide for local areas.

A guide for Wales is currently being developed and will be published in due course.

Forced marriage

Read information and practice guidelines for professionals protecting, advising and supporting victims of forced marriage.

Three steps to escaping domestic violence

Read the leaflet the Home Office developed with Southall Black Sisters at women in black and minority ethnic communities: Three steps to escaping domestic violence.

Domestic abuse and young people

The changes to the definition of domestic raise awareness that young people in the 16 to 17 age group can also be victims of domestic violence and abuse.

By including this age group the government hopes to encourage young people to come forward and get the support they need, through a helpline or specialist service.

Young people’s panel

A young people’s panel will be set up by the NSPCC. The panel will consist of up to 5 members between the age of 16 and 22, who will work with the government on domestic violence policy and wider work to fight violence against women and girls.

Coercive or controlling behaviour offence

A coercive or controlling behaviour offence came into force in December 2015. It carries a maximum 5 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both. Victims who experience coercive and controlling behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, can bring their perpetrators to justice.

The offence closes a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour that occurs during a relationship between intimate partners, former partners who still live together or family members. Guidance for police and criminal justice officials on the offence is available.

Domestic violence disclosure scheme

From 8 March 2014, the domestic violence disclosure scheme was implemented across England and Wales. This follows the successful conclusion of a 1 year pilot in the Greater Manchester, Nottinghamshire, West Mercia and Wiltshire police force areas.

Right to ask

Under the scheme an individual can ask police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past. This is the ‘right to ask’. If records show that an individual may be at risk of domestic violence from a partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

Right to know

This enables an agency to apply for a discloure if the agency believes that an indivdual is at risk of domestic violence from their partner. Again, the police can release information if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so.

Further information:

Domestic violence protection notices and orders

Domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs) are being implemented across England and Wales from 8 March 2014. This follows the successful conclusion of a 1 year pilot in the West Mercia, Wiltshire and Greater Manchester police force areas.

Domestic violence protection orders are a new power that fills a gap in providing protection to victims by enabling the police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.

Before the scheme, there was a gap in protection, because police couldn’t charge the perpetrator for lack of evidence and so provide protection to a victim through bail conditions, and because the process of granting injunctions took time.

Further information:

Male victims of domestic and sexual violence fund 2011 to 2013

In December 2011 the Home Office launched a fund to support male victims of domestic and sexual violence. The following organisations were successful in this fund and will receive up to £10,000 over the next 2 years to support services for male victims:

  • Survivors UK
  • Women’s Support Network
  • Arch North Staff
  • Southampton Rape Crisis
  • Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre
  • Blackpool Advocacy
  • Safer Wales
  • Preston Domestic Violence Service
  • North Derby Women’s Aid
  • GALOP (London’s LGBT anti-violence and abuse charity)
  • the Lesbian and Gay Foundation
  • Rosa (fund supporting initiatives for women and girls) and Safeline

Domestic homicide reviews: how to conduct a review

When someone has been killed as a result of domestic violence (domestic homicide) a review should be carried out.

Professionals need to understand what happened in each homicide and to identify what needs to change to reduce the risk of future tragedies.

Guidance for practitioners conducting a review

The following documents support frontline practitioners taking part in a DHR:

  • multi-agency statutory guidance, following extensive consultation with partners, we have published a refreshed guide for the conduct of domestic homicide reviews.

This refreshed guidance comes into effect for notifications made by local areas to the Home Office from 1 August 2013. While the overall core DHR rationale and structure remains the same, the refreshed statutory guidance incorporates many comments received from partners to clarify elements of the DHR processes.

Information for family, friends and colleagues of the victim

The following leaflets have been produced for use by DHR panels when meeting with family, friends, colleagues or employers of the victim or perpetrator.

Telling the Home Office about your review

You must contact the Home Office if you decide to conduct a DHR. If you decide not to conduct a review, you should also explain your reasons to us.


Home Office Domestic Homicide Review Quality Assurance Panel

Read about the Quality Assurance Panel.

Independent domestic violence advisers

Call to end violence against women and girls

On 25 November 2010 the government committed further central funding for domestic violence support services over the next 4 years (2014 to 2015).

A paper was also launched outlining guiding principles to prevent violence against women and girls.

Read Call to end violence against women and girls.

Applications were invited in England and Wales to bid for money to support independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs) and multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) coordinators and administrators.

Find out which IDVA and MARAC organisations received funding.

Role of IDVAs

IDVAs help keep victims and their children safe from harm from violent partners or family.

Serving as a victim’s primary point of contact, IDVAs normally work with their clients from the point of crisis, to assess the level of risk. They:

  • discuss the range of suitable options
  • develop plans for immediate safety – including practical steps for victims to protect themselves and their children
  • develop plans for longer-term safety
  • represent their clients at the MARAC
  • help apply sanctions and remedies available through the criminal and civil courts, including housing options

These plans address immediate safety, including practical steps for victims to protect themselves and their children, as well as longer-term solutions.


The role of MARAC coordinators and administrators is to:

  • help to establish communication between all parties
  • give information to partner agencies about the MARAC process, where appropriate
  • work with the chair to identify agency gaps
  • establish links with these agencies to enable them to take part in the MARAC

The Home Office funds Coordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA) to provide IDVA training places and run a quality assurance program for MARACs.

Review of MARACs

The aim of the review (‘Supporting high-risk victims of domestic violence’) was to look into how MARACs work and identify potential improvement. You can read the findings of the review.

Adolescent to parent violence and abuse

As stated in the Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls Progress Report (published in March 2015), the Home Office has worked with third sector partners, academics and other government departments to develop and disseminate information for practitioners working with children and families on how to identify and address the risks posed by adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA).

APVA is a hidden form of domestic violence and abuse that is often not spoken about. It is hoped that by raising awareness around this issue, we can provide better protection to victims and apply an appropriate safeguarding approach.

The guidance on adolescent to parent violence and abuse (PDF, 763KB, 35 pages) is now available.

Domestic violence victims without indefinite leave to remain

If your relationship with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK has broken down because of domestic violence, you may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (permission to stay in the UK permanently).

The ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy is a general rule for most people who apply to come to the UK. The policy is based on the principle that people without a permanent right to remain in the UK should not have the same access to benefits as British citizens.

Our immigration policy is clear that migrants coming to the UK should be able to provide for themselves financially without relying on benefits from the state. However, the government is aware of the difficulties victims of domestic violence face, in particular those who can’t access public funds.

Because of this, the government provides help to these victims who have been admitted to the UK with leave as spouses, unmarried partners or civil partners of a British citizen, or of a non-citizen who is settled in the UK.

This allows domestic violence victims to apply for indefinite leave to remain in their own right, if they have been victims of domestic violence.

How to apply

Find out how to apply for settlement as a victim of domestic violence.

Published 26 March 2013
Last updated 31 May 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added a closing date for the consultation.
  2. A link to the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation has been added.
  3. Added links to the Home Office assessment of Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.
  4. Guidance on adolescent to parent violence and abuse published.
  5. Domestic violence protection orders and disclosure scheme evaluation reports and impact assessments published.
  6. First published.