Man asking himself, what is violence

What is violence?

How do we define domestic violence? Let’s define domestic violence. We view violence towards partners – whether they live together or not – as domestic violence. When children or other family members are involved we refer to this as family violence. Any violence towards a spouse is inevitably going to affect children.


Violence can take many forms

Often people think of violence as something that’s purely physical. But physical abuse is one part of a much larger picture.

Physical violence may not be the first sign of violence in a relationship but it is the easiest to recognise.

Violence takes many forms. It can be frequent or rare, sudden or slow. It can be loud or silent. You might feel justified or full of remorse – or both. You might apologise and behave lovingly at other times.


Physical violence

Any physical behaviour that causes pain or suffering to another human is violence – this includes hitting, slapping, spitting, punching, kicking, pushing, shoving, restraining or in any other way using physical force to hurt or control another person. Partner violence can include using children, other family members or pets as a means of control and coercion either by threatening them or actually harming them. It can also include destruction of property – punching holes in walls, destroying or defacing personal belongings.


Sexual violence

This includes:

  • Forcing your partner to have sex or to perform sex acts that they do not like
  • Rape
  • Sulking or punishing them for not having sex
  • Humiliating them, making them watch sexually explicit material when they do not want to
  • Having unsafe sex
  • Pressuring them to have sex with other people
  • Taking sexual photos or videos of your partner without their consent and sending them or threatening to show them to other people.

Sexual violence is any sexual act that is not consensual – if your partner does not want to do it but you make them do it, that is violence.


Verbal abuse

Is another form of violence, and it isn’t just about shouting. It is violent to tell your partner what to wear, to degrade them and use language that puts them down such as calling them ugly, fat or stupid or using other words that shame them.


Emotional and Psychological

It’s violent to make someone fearful or worried. Stalking and harassment are forms of violence that can cause severe psychological damage. It’s violent to cause someone psychological anxiety by behaving in an unpredictable, erratic or threatening manner. Shutting a person out and refusing to communicate with them can be a form of psychological abuse. All forms of violence can cause psychological damage.



It is violent to control who your partner sees, to limit their communication with family and friends, to force them to spend all their time with you, to follow them when they go out or go to work or use any form of surveillance including reading emails or checking phone messages. It is violent to humiliate them in front of others or treat them as an inferior.



Controlling the household finances without allowing the other person to make choices, or preventing them from being independent, or having a say in how money is spent, is a form of abuse. This includes expecting them to provide receipts and account for every cent they spend or restricting their life choices by using money as a form of power and control.


Digital / Online abuse

Using technology to isolate, stalk, humiliate, spy on or control someone.



Spiritual violence can mean restricting a spiritual practice, preventing attendance at a place of worship, or ridiculing religious beliefs. It can also take the form of using religion to perpetrate abuse.


Cultural abuse

‘Honour’-based violence and forced marriage, female circumcision and other forms of cultural abuse that hurt, degrade or remove freedom of choice.


Any of these forms of controlling behaviour can occur with or without physical violence. Often men and women do not realise there is violence in their relationship until it becomes physical. The choices you make now can stop it from ending up that way.

There are alternatives. Things can be different. We can help.

Get Help

For support in maintaining change and building violence-free relationships,
contact Changing for Good to find out how we can help.

Simply call to leave your details or download the expression of interest form and email it to us.