Jargon buster

Don’t let fancy words intimidate you. Here are some commonly used terms you should know.

Domestic abuse glossary of terms

As you seek support, online or with a specialist, you may hear words or phrases unfamiliar to you. We’ve rounded some definitions that may be helpful.

Domestic abuse (DA): a term used to define physical, emotional, psychological, economic, tech, and/or sexual abuse from an intimate partner or between people who are personally connected. Although DA can be perpetrated by anyone against anyone, it is much more commonly perpetrated by men against women.

Coercive control: Controlling behaviour that is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. It can include assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Gaslighting: a form of emotional or psychological abuse where an abuser misleads and manipulates his partner, creating a false narrative and making her question her judgments and reality.

Love bombing: Signs include excessive or unwanted gift giving, pressure to take relationship steps too quickly and negative reactions to the perpetrator’s advances being rejected by his partner. The goal is to create a sense of indebtedness or dependence, which can later evolve into more manipulative forms of control.

Negging: Stands for negative-feedback. It is a deliberate ploy where the perpetrator purposefully undermines his partner’s confidence by insulting her, while disguising it as a compliment.

Stonewalling: A form of emotional abuse where a partner deliberately shuts down all attempts to communicate. This could be through silent treatment, constantly changing the subject, or physically leaving whenever productive discussion is attempted.

Gender-based violence: Any form of violence that is used as a policing mechanism of gender norms and relations and is intended to result in the subordination of women.

Economic abuse: Denying a woman access to and control over basic resources. It includes the denial of funds, refusal to contribute financially, denial of food and basic needs, controlling access to health care, employment, running up debts without their knowledge or consent.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse: When an abuser uses emotions, self esteem and/or a person’s emotional state to establish and maintain power and control over his partner.

Honour Based Violence (HBV): Abuse which is carried out to enforce the rules of various beliefs, cultures, values, and/or social norms. Perpetrators of this form of abuse claim upholding these rules as a justification for their actions.

Individual Safety Plan (ISP): A personalised plan that helps someone experiencing abuse to prepare, in advance, for a violent or abusive situation. It may include thinking ahead to how you could react in various situations; packing an emergency bag with money, medication, and other important items you may need; planning an escape route; or keeping important phone numbers of people or organisations which can help.

Civil law vs. Criminal law: Many people do not realise that there are two sorts of law in the UK: criminal law and civil law. Domestic violence can fall into one or both categories.

  • Criminal law applies where a person is charged with a criminal offence such as assault or harassment.
  • Civil law applies to many different areas of law where a person may want to assert his or her legal rights: such as rights under family law, housing law or immigration law;
  • A criminal court can sentence your abuser to various punishments such as a fine or imprisonment, whereas a civil court can grant you civil rights such as a child arrangements order, an injunction or a prohibited steps order.

Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA): A person who works with survivors at high risk of harm from intimate partners, ex-partners or family members to secure their safety and the safety of their children. Serving as a survivor’s primary point of contact, IDVAs normally work with their clients from the point of crisis to assess the level of risk, discuss the range of suitable options and develop safety plans.

Abuse (verb): To insult, hurt, injure, rape or assault another person. Such behaviours may include, but are not limited to: physical abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse and/or verbal abuse.

Abuser: A person who uses abusive tactics and behaviours to exert power and control over another person with whom the abuser is in an intimate, dating or family relationship.

Advocate: A trained professional or volunteer working for a non-profit or government-based domestic abuse or victim-witness advocate program.

Isolation: When one person seeks to keep another away from friends, family and social networks so they can establish and maintain power and control over a victim.

Perpetrator: A person carrying out domestic abuse; see also “abuser”.

Survivor: A person who was or is being abused or harmed by another person.

Safe Housing: Also known as a refuge, this is emergency, transitional or permanent shelter/housing that is confidentially located.

Sexual Abuse: When an abuser uses sexual acts to establish and maintain power and control over his partner without their consent.

Sexual Assault: Any unwanted sexual activity forced on one person by another.

Stalking: When one person pursues, follows or harasses another person against their wishes.

Tech Abuse: When an abuser uses modern technology to stalk, isolate and control their partner using the tools of everyday life.

Verbal Abuse: When an abuser uses words to establish and maintain power and control over a partner.