What is domestic violence?

The Birmingham Crisis Centre explains abusive behaviours and offers advice to women experiencing domestic violence.

The Home Office states that:  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 intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

  • heart painted over cracked pavingpsychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

What is the cause of Domestic Violence (DV)?

Domestic violence is “caused” by the misuse of power and control and to maintain a situation of male dominance.

Most perpetrators behave with a sense of entitlement which is often supported by sexist, racist, homophobic and other discriminatory attitudes, and can be seen as a consequence of the inequalities between men and women, rooted in traditions.  These encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partners.

Despite this ultimately the responsibility for the abuse must lie with the perpetrator.

So, DV is learned behaviour rather than a consequence of stress, substance misuse, individual pathology or a dysfunctional relationship.

Perpetrators avoid taking responsibility for their behaviour and will blame the violence on someone or something else for example: it’s stress, it’s drink, it’s her fault!

Who are the victims?

Many people still blame the women for being victims. But the reality is that any woman could find that she is in a relationship with a perpetrator and has therefore become a victim of Domestic Abuse.

Any woman can experience domestic violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle. Domestic violence can also take place in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships.

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Who are the perpetrators?

The majority of them are men; they come from all walks of life, from any ethnic group, religion, class or neighbourhood.

Perpetrators are abusive in any intimate relationship they have. They are also not easy to spot – they certainly don’t walk around wearing badges or T shirts!

Domestic violence can also be perpetrated by other family members (for example, extended family). In some cases, older children – teenagers or young adults – are violent or abusive towards their mothers or other family members.

Other behaviour…

Every situation is unique; however, there are common factors that link the experience of an abusive relationship. This list can help you to recognise if you are – or someone you know is – in an abusive relationship.

  • Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling.
  • Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnecting the telephone, taking the car away, taking the children away, or reporting you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands, threatening or attempting suicide, withholding or pressuring you to use drugs or other substances, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
  • Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
  • Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
  • Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone call, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives, shutting you in the house, checking your car mileage, stopping you seeing health professionals.
  • Harassment: following you; checking up on you; not allowing you any privacy (for example, opening your mail), repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you; embarrassing you in public; accompanying you everywhere you go.
  • Threats: making angry gestures; wielding a knife or a gun; threatening to kill or harm you and the children; threatening to kill or harm family pets; threats of suicide.
  • Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want it, forcing you to watch pornographic material, forcing you to have sex with other people, any degrading treatment related to your sexuality or to whether you are lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.
  • Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting; biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling, using his belt, TV remote or other objects to be violent towards you, including weapons, guns or knives.
  • Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again; suggesting the abuse is due to stress, alcohol/drugs.
  • Occasional Indulgencies: flowers, chocolates, apologies, being made love to, treats, outings.  These will show her the man she fell in love with and give her hope that she has finally got things right – which will be cruelly dashed during the next violent/verbal episode.
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What victims need

It is difficult to support a victim of Domestic Abuse, but there are 4 key points to remember:

  1. Never criticise the abuser
  2. Never push the victim into doing something they don’t want to do
  3. Be supportive and understanding
  4. Re-assure them that the abuse isn’t their fault

Safety Planning


  • See if they can use a relatives /friends address as c/o for mail
  • Money/debit cards/credit cards
  • Mobile phone – change number
  • Clothes for themselves and their children
  • Birth certificates/passports/medical cards/driving licence
  • Take any paperwork documenting the abuse; police orders, court orders, injunctions etc.
  • Prescription medication
  • Proof of National Insurance/benefit information
  • Set of house keys/car keys
  • Children’s favourite toy/comforter
  • Photographs
  • Address book and useful numbers


It may be very difficult for others to understand why you want to stay!  The abuser is more than just an abuser…he is often the children’s father, the breadwinner, the lover, the handyman, the first person you have fallen in love with, the last person you have fallen in love with, the one who buys flowers and chocolates (even if this is part of apology).

  • You should walk around each room of your house spotting potential hazards and moving them if possible.
  • You should move to different areas of your home and try to imagine what you would do if  you were attacked
  • To visualise the steps that you would take and the things you would do.  This allows it to be an automatic response if the inevitable happens

Logo for Birmingham Crisis CentreIf you have any questions about leaving, about the abuse itself or anything else then please call  Birmingham Crisis Centre on our 24hour helpline 0121 507 0707 and speak to one of our experienced staff. If you’re based outside of Birmingham, you can call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline, run by Women’s Aid and Refuge on 0808 2000 247.