What is Domestic Violence?

The term ‘domestic violence’ goes beyond actual physical violence. It can also involve the destruction of property; isolation from friends, family and other potential sources of support; threats to others including children; stalking; and control over access to money, personal items, food, transportation and the telephone.

It occurs in all social classes, all ethnic groups and among people of every educational background.

It can be described as the use of physical or emotional force or the threat of physical force, including sexual violence in close adult relationships.

Domestic violence profoundly affects the physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing of individuals and families. It is perpetrated against a person by that person’s spouse, intimate partner, ex-partner, other family members and/or another person at home. Domestic violence is pattern of repeated abusive and controlling behaviours that occurs within an intimate or family relationship and may even continue after the relationship has ended.

The Domestic Violence Act 2018, which became law on 1 January 2019, changed how our Justice system deals with domestic violence. It recognises in law the impact that emotional abuse can have on those it is inflicted upon by the creation of the offence of Coercive Control.

Coercive Control is defined in Section 39 of the 2018 Act. It provides that a person commits an offence where he or she knowingly and persistently engages in behaviour that

(a) is controlling or coercive

(b) has a serious effect on a relevant person,


(c) a reasonable person would consider likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person. 


The Act also says that the requirement of a ‘serious effect’ means behaviour that causes the person to

(a)    Fear that violence will be used against him or her


(b)    Serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on his or her usual day-to-day activities.


To learn more about Coercive Control go to https://www.safeireland.ie/get-help/safety-information/the-criminal-offence-of-coercive-control/

Types of Domestic Violence


Physical violence/abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. It can include:

  • direct physical assault on the body
  • pushing / shoving
  • punching / slapping
  • biting
  • pulling of hair
  • choking
  • mutilation and maiming
  • burns
  • throwing of objects at a person
  • use of weapons to threaten or injure
  • being sexually assaulted and/or raped.


Emotional or psychological abuse can include:

  • continual put downs and/or criticism.
  • humiliation
  • bullying
  • threatening to hurt children or themselves
  • exploitation
  • intimidation
  • psychological degradation
  • verbal aggression
  • undermining of self-esteem
  • name calling
  • heavy monitoring of mobile phone use, texts, email and social media
  • property being destroyed.


Sexual violence is any form of sexual coercion (physical or emotional) or sexual degradation against an individual in the family or domestic unit. It can include:

  • any sexual activity without consent
  • unwanted sexual touching
  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • incest
  • rape between spouses, cohabitants, partners or ex-partners
  • causing pain without consent during sex
  • forced stripping of clothing
  • victims being told that it is their duty to have sex with the abuser
  • sexual degradation including the enforced use of pornography.


Financial abuse is a form of domestic violence in which the abuser uses money as a means of controlling their partner. It can include:

  • economic blackmail
  • complete control of all monies and bank accounts
  • denial of financial independence
  • complete control of family finances and spending
  • denial of access to necessary funds
  • preventing the victim from working
  • taking control of bank cards and access to credit
  • non-payment of child maintenance
  • refusal of funds for household bills.


Examples of social abuse can include:

  • systematic isolation from family and friends
  • forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people
  • constant criticising of victim’s family and friends
  • victims never being left on their own by perpetrator
  • refusal to allow victims to work.


Online or digital abuse is the use of technologies such as mobile phone texting and social networking to bully, pursue, cyber-stalk or intimidate a partner. In most cases, this type of abuse is emotional and/or verbal perpetuated online. Examples include:

  • sending negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets
  • online put downs on status updates
  • sending unwanted and/or explicit pictures
  • sharing intimate images online without consent
  • tracking victim online activity, search history and cache history
  • stealing or insisting on being given online passwords
  • constantly checking of mobile phones for pictures, texts and calls
  • unkind comments/tags on Instagram or Tumblr etc.