What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is any abusive act within a single or common household, family or intimate relationship between actual spouses or former spouses. In most societies, domestic violence affects more women than men.

Domestic violence is any act of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic violence, whether it is between actual or former spouses, existing or former partners in an unregistered relationship, first-degree relatives (children and parents), second-degree relatives (grandchildren, grandparents, sisters and brothers), and whether the perpetrator shares or has shared a common (single) household with the victim.

Domestic violence & Discrimination

Domestic violence is considered to be a form of discrimination against women as it affects proportionally more women than men. Moreover, domestic violence should be addressed in a wider context than interpersonal relationships, as abusive relationships, in which it is mainly women who suffer from men, is not the root problem. Instead, it is believed that domestic violence is encouraged by other forms of discrimination which women encounter in the labour market, the public space, the media etc.

The special character of domestic violence

Domestic violence is a cycle of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic invasion, which is repeated more and more often, and is usually realized against a woman by her partner (husband or boyfriend) or another relative (adult child, etc.) with the aim of gaining power, control, and authority over the victim.

The power and control over a victim of domestic violence is a particular characteristic of domestic violence and differentiates it from other acts of violence. Thus, to help victims of domestic violence to safely exit their relationship, it is not only necessary to understand the phenomenon of domestic violence, but also to create safe exit strategies and provide State guaranteed protection and assistance to victims.

About this section

This section of the Guide will explain how to recognize domestic violence and which human rights may be violated as a result of it. 

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education