An overview of domestic violence

Firstly allow me to assume you as a reader has heard of domestic violence, which thoughts came into your mind when you heard it or as you are reading this? Each of us have different views, depending on our backgrounds as culture practices and values tend to shape our understanding of the issue. Some of us might have examples or cases associated with domestic violence, either through actively working closely with those who have been victims, or personally experienced domestic violence.

Secondly, why did I choose to ask this question? Before I answer lets have an overview and further understand what domestic violence really is. The Home Office defines domestic violence and abuse as follows ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to the following types of abuse’

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional


Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim’, (The Home Office & AVA, 2013). According to the World Health Organization (2016), 1 in 3 women (35%) have experienced the above-mentioned types of abuse, this is the current global prevalence figure reported. However, the majority of this violence is intimate partner violence and almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Sadly, sufferers and victims of domestic violence reported are mainly women, this not to say that men are not victims. The United Nations similarly to domestic violence defines in particular violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’ (UN, violence against women factsheet nr 239, 2016)

Lets go back to the answering the initial question. I asked the question mainly because I come from an African background and thus understand some of the cultural biases and practices associated with domestic violence. One of the core issues is the “acceptance of domestic violence”/sweep it under the carpet attitude”. Although I cannot generalize the culture of each African country I can justify this by the fact that domestic violence is not a topic talked about in most African communities, similar with South Asian and Afro Caribbean communities. There is a sense of “taboo” despites the incidences attached to domestic violence and thus it victims are left afraid to talk about it, to seek help, and tragically remain living in this unjustified and unhealthy environment until all hope is lost.

As young African woman and aspiring health psychologist the issues of domestic violence is not only a topic of interest but rather an issue that requires active implementation of awareness through education, increased training for health professionals who come in contact with various individuals from all backgrounds on a daily basis and lastly for policy makers to make domestic violence their priority. Despite government and non-governmental organizational efforts, the issues of domestic violence continues to exist and requires collaborative work to ensure that no person is left, feeling trapped with or without children in an abusive home/place.

The next article will discuss the causes and contributing factors associated with domestic violence, where to seek help and why it’s of importance to reduce the incidents of domestic violence.

Olive Pathway


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