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Domestic abuse

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Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and/or violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner (Scottish Women’s Aid).

When we refer to domestic abuse, many people might assume or think of physical abuse being the only or primary form of abuse – however, abuse can take many forms and you do not have to have experienced physical abuse to have experienced domestic abuse.

There are a number of ways in which domestic abuse can take place, and so it is important to remember that no two situations will look the same.

One way in which many women will experience domestic abuse is through coercive control, which is a pattern of behaviours that can be intimidating, controlling, threatening and overall, emotionally abusive.

Other kinds of domestic abuse include physical and sexual violence, stalking, and economic abuse. Scottish Women’s Aid have lots of examples for each form of abuse which can help you consider your own situation.


Legal options

In Scotland, domestic abuse - including coercive control and physical abuse - is a crime. Depending on your circumstances legal options should be available to you. You can find more information by viewing our legal guides.

There are also organisations that specialise in providing support through a criminal or civil process – you can find this in our signposting below.

In 2019, the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act came into action, making coercive control a criminal offence. This piece of law means that all aspects of abuse are taken into consideration by the courts.

Where there is sufficient evidence of repeated abusive behaviour and where there is a connection between the behaviours, this can now be recognised as part of an overall pattern of abuse. Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline outline this law and what it means for you in detail on their website.

To know more about what the process is like when reporting and what rights you have, read our legal guide on reporting domestic abuse.


Looking for more information on domestic abuse?


Other support and organisations that can help

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline

Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline is available 24/7 offering support and advice to anyone affected by domestic abuse or forced marriage. For information on your local Women’s Aid group or on refuge accommodation please visit Scottish Women’s Aid.

Galop - LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline

Opening times:

10am – 8pm Monday
10am – 5pm Tuesday
10am – 5pm Wednesday
10am – 8pm Thursday
1pm – 5pm Friday
(1pm – 5pm Tuesday is trans specific service).

The National Stalking Helpline

The National Stalking Helpline is available on weekdays between 9.30am and 4pm, excepting Wednesdays when it is available 1-4pm. Offering support and information if you or someone you know is being made to feel harassed or intimidated by the behaviour of another person or is at risk of emotional or physical harm.


In immediate danger or looking to report?

If you feel you are in immediate danger, call the Police on 999. If you are not in immediate danger but would like to report, call the Police on 101. Alternatively, you can fill out Police Scotland’s online form. Police Scotland respond and investigate reports of criminal activity, this includes various forms of gender-based violence.

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Please note our helplines will be unavailable between 20th December 2023 and 8th January 2024 while our Centre is closed for the holidays.