Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

What is Domestic Violence?


Domestic Violence refers to the use of physical, emotional force or threat of physical force, including sexual violence in close adult relationships. Domestic Violence includes violence perpetrated by a spouse, partner, son, daughter or any other person who has a close relationship or lives with the victim. The term ‘domestic violence’ goes beyond physical violence and can also involve emotional abuse; 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.

Domestic violence is a major issue that profoundly affects the physical, emotional, social and financial wellbeing of individuals and families. While domestic violence can  involve just one isolated individual offence of physical assault in a domestic relationship, the term is most often used  to describe a pattern of repeated abusive and controlling behaviours that take place within an intimate or family-type relationship and may continue after the relationship has ended.

There is no single criminal offence of Domestic Violence in Ireland, but much of the behaviour would constitute be an offence under the range of violent crimes. Four different types of protective orders can be obtained from the Civil Courts and failure to comply with an order constitutes a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence Act.

For information on Barring, safety and protection orders click here.

For more information on domestic violence click here (COSC) and here for the What Would You Do campaign. 

Please refer to the section “What is Gender Based Violence” for other forms of violence that is perpetrated, typically on females, by family members for reasons of gender expectations.  For more information on domestic violence click here

Types of Violence:

Physical Assault:

Causing or potentially causing any harm to the body of the other person, including by engaging in any of the following behaviours: throwing of objects; shoving; hitting; slapping; punching; biting; burning; choking; mutilation. The use of a weapon aggravates the risk of harm.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse:

Causing or attempting to cause psychological harm to the other person by the use of: verbal aggression and threats; humiliation; undermining of self-esteem; name calling; continual “put downs”; psychological degradation; exploitation; threatening to hurt children; intimidation; bullying;

Financial Abuse:

Controlling or attempting to control the other person by means of economic blackmail; having dominant or complete control of all monies and bank accounts; denial of access to necessary funds; preventing the victim from working or having financial independence.

Sexual Violence:

Sexual violence includes any form of sexual activity that takes place without the full and freely given consent of one of the people involved. It includes sexual degradation and any form of physical or emotional coercion or manipulation into any type of sexual activity that is against the wishes of one of the people involved. Any unwanted sexual activity from sexual touching to rape between spouses, cohabitants, partners or ex-partners is a form of sexual violence.

Social Abuse:

This involves the systematic isolation of one person in the relationship from their family and friends or from social activities, forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out, meeting people, or engaging in or attending for work or any other appointment.

Harassment , including Social Media or Online Harassment:

Harassment is behaviour used to bully, pursue, stalk or intimidate the other person in the relationship.  The intention of this type of abuse is usually to harm the victim emotionally or to cause damage to their image or reputation or how they are viewed by others. Online abuse involves the use of technologies such as mobile phone texting, electronic communication or social networking to carry out these behaviours. It can include sending negative, insulting or even threatening emails, or messages on social media; online “put downs”; sending or posting sexually explicit pictures; tracking online activity; stealing or demanding passwords; checking of mobile phones for pictures, texts and calls.

Honour-based violence (HBV)

HBV is a term used to describe violence committed on a person by a member of their family or immediate community.  It is motiviated by a perceived need to restore that position of the family or community after the victim is perceived to have in some way dishonoured it.  They may have refused to enter a forced marriage, had sexual relations outside of marriage or have expressed some form of autonomy.  Predominately the victims of HBV are women or girls, but can also be males.  HBV often results in serious physical injury, maiming or death. 

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