A-Z glossary

Our glossary provides definitions and descriptions to explain important terms and topics used throughout our work and across the domestic abuse sector.


Advocate: A person who is able to help another person to express their views, stand up for their rights and obtain support. Within the context of our work, advocates often perform their roles as Independent domestic violence advisors (Idva) or Independent domestic abuse advocates (IDAA), see below. 


Brainwashing: A process of manipulating and modifying a person’s emotions, attitudes and beliefs.


Child abuse: Physical, sexual and emotional abuse towards children or young people that causes them significant harm. It also includes neglect, such as the lack of care and attention. 


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS): Care services for children and young people with mental health problems. 


Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS): An organisation that represents children’s best interests and independently advises the family courts in England about child safeguarding and welfare best practice. 


Coercive control: A purposeful pattern of behaviour that takes place over time, in order for one individual to instil fear and exert power or control over another. The perpetrator’s behaviour occurs repeatedly and has a substantial adverse effect on the day to day activities of the victim, reducing their ability to think and take action for themselves. Coercive control takes place between two people who know each other in an intimate sense, for example, intimate partners, former partners or family members. It is a hallmark feature of all domestic abuse. 


Cognitive dissonance: Stress, anxiety or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.


Crazy making: A form of psychological abuse, where the abuser sets the victim up for failure, as nothing the victim ever does is right. Crazy making behaviour is also due to gaslighting, and can also involve word salad, see below. 


Dash risk checklist: The Domestic Abuse Stalking and ‘Honour’-based violence risk checklist is a resource designed for professionals to make an accurate and fast assessment of the danger that victims of domestic abuse are in.


Domestic abuse (DA): Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between a victim and their perpetrator regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass – but is not limited to – psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse. Domestic abuse can be perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner, family member, or carer.


Domestic Abuse Matters: Training delivered by SafeLives that focuses on the issue of domestic abuse and coercive controlling behaviour and is structured with a view to implementing long-term attitudinal and behavioural change in police forces.


Dosing: Small and temporary revivals of the idealise phase where the abuser gives his/her victim ‘doses’ of attention, affection (love bombing) and hope to keep them in – or suck them back into – the relationship.


Economic abuse: When an abuser exercises control through denying access to economic resources such as money, sabotaging economic resources or exploiting them, to create economic instability and prevent a survivor from living their life safely and independently.


Emotional abuse: When an abuser subjects their victim to psychological harm or trauma which can include bullying, isolation, creating power imbalances, gaslighting, or making fun of the victim. Emotional abuse can leave victims feeling anxious or depressed.


Female genital mutilation (FGM): Involves procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. FGM is commonly practiced on girls and young women under 18. It is a traditional custom, performed for social reasons, most commonly seen in sub-Saharan African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities. FGM is rooted in discrimination against girls and women and can cause life-long psychological and physical trauma. 


Forced marriage: When one or both people do not or cannot consent to a marriage, and pressure or abuse is used to force them into the marriage. Forced marriage can also take place when activities take place to arrange a marriage before a young person turns 18, even if there is no pressure or abuse. It is a hidden practice – where due to its nature – the full scale of the issue is unknown. It can happen to both men and women, although most cases involve young women and girls aged between 16 and 25.


Gaslighting: A form of abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favour the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.


Gender-based violence: A form of abuse that primarily affects women and girls, although it can affect everyone. Gender-based violence occurs when the perpetrator exerts control or power to exploit a victim based on gender norms and relations. It includes domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation.


Grooming: A calculated and predatory act of manipulating another individual into subtly and slowly taking on a set of behaviours and actions. These behaviours and actions make the victim more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behaviour.


Health Path Finder: A pilot project that ran from 2017 to 2020 and was led by Standing Together as part of a consortium of expert partners. Findings of the Pathfinder pilot informed The Whole Health Model. This aims to transform healthcare’s response to domestic abuse by ensuring a coordinated and consistent approach across the health system including acute, mental health and primary care services.


High risk domestic abuse: Victims at risk of serious harm or murder as a result of the domestic abuse they experience. 


‘Honour’-based abuse: An incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of an individual, family and / or community, for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and / or community’s code of behaviour. It is important to remember that, despite the use of the ‘honour’-based label, there can be no ‘honour’ in abuse.


Hoovering: A manipulative technique named after the Hoover vacuum, and used by abusers to ‘suck’ their victims back into the relationship. Hoovering consists of any attempt to communicate with the victim. It is often done in the form of text messages, phone calls, emails, through mutual friends, family or ‘accidentally’ bumping into the victim. Multiple forms of manipulative messages can be used, from saying hello, to I love you, or more aggressive or provoking messages such as suicide threats, outright lies.


Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (Idva): A specialist professional who works with victims of domestic abuse. Idvas develop trusting relationships to help victims with everything they need to become safe and rebuild their life. Idvas perform an advocacy role, representing victims’ voices at Maracs, as well as helping them to navigate the criminal justice process and working with the different statutory agencies to provide wraparound support. 


Independent Domestic Abuse Advocate (Idaa): A specialist advocacy professional who works with victims of domestic abuse in Scotland. 


Individual Safety Plan (ISP): A formal document that helps victims to plan actions they will take to keep themselves and their children safe in the event of future violence or domestic abuse by a perpetrator. A safety plan is one of the most important steps in increasing safety outcomes for victims, particularly when separating from a perpetrator. 


Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (Isva): A specialist advocacy professional who works with victims of sexual abuse to provide independent practical advice and support. 


Leading Lights (LL): Leading Lights is SafeLives’ accreditation programme for community-based domestic abuse services. It is the mark of quality for domestic abuse services and is recognised by commissioners and funders across the UK.


Local Criminal Justice Boards (LCJB): A system organised around police force areas in England and Wales to bring together criminal justice leaders to maintain oversight of the system and promote a collaborative approach to addressing its challenges. Local Criminal Justice Boards are mostly chaired by the Police and Crime Commissioner. 


Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCB): A key statutory mechanism for agreeing how the relevant organisations in each local area cooperate to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, with the purpose of holding each other to account and ensuring that safeguarding children remains high on the agenda across the partnership area.


Love bombing: Phase one of the cycle of abuse. This stage often involves constant communication and compliments and is designed to lure the victim into (or back into) the relationship.


Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (Marac): A regular local meeting to discuss how to help victims at high risk of murder or serious harm. Idvas, police, children’s social services, health and other relevant agencies all sit around the same table to talk confidentially about the victim, the family and perpetrator, and share information in order to produce a co-ordinated action plan to increase victim safety.


Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)): A set of arrangements which provides a common framework to ensure the successful management of violent and sexual offenders.


Multi Agency Risk Assessment Team (MARAT): The team of professionals from different organisational backgrounds who work together at Marac meetings. It includes the local police, probation services, health services, child protection services, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors.


Multi Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC): A multi-agency approach that aims to reduce the reoffending of serial perpetrators of domestic abuse, by focusing on some of the most harmful and serious cases of domestic abuse.


Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH): A model for multi-agency teams to identify and mitigate risks of domestic abuse in order to safeguard vulnerable children.


Marac Development Officer: A key personnel role responsible for implementing the Marac Development Programme (see below). 


Marac Development Programme: An ongoing national framework, run by SafeLives, to improve and enhance the multi-agency response to domestic abuse through the use of Maracs. 


Marac Implementation Programme: SafeLives’ initial programme, which set up the Marac system to improve outcomes for people affected by domestic abuse. 


Marac Operating Protocol: SafeLives’ guidance on successfully operating Maracs at a local level. The protocol aims to establish accountability, responsibility and reporting structures for the Marac and to outline the process of the Marac.


Normalising: A tactic used to desensitise an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviours. Once the behaviour is seen as normal, then the victim is more prone to taking part in it.


Older Person’s Violence Advisor (Opva): A specialist advocate professional who works with older people affected by domestic abuse to provide independent practical advice and support. ‘Older people’ refers to those aged over 61 years of age.


Perpetrator: A person perpetrating abuse uses abusive tactics and behaviours to exert control and power over their victim. 


Physical abuse: When an abuser controls a victim through physical means, causing harm or trauma. It can include, but is not limited to, being hit, slapped, punched, kicked, pushed, choked, bitten and burned.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder which may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such as ‘shell shock’. But it’s not only diagnosed in soldiers – a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD – including domestic and sexual abuse. 


Rape: A type of sexual assault when a person penetrates the vagina, mouth, or anus of another person in a non-consensal way. The legal definition of rape is specific to penetration with a penis, however a person without a penis who assists this act can also be guilty of rape. 


Risk Identification Checklist (RIC): The Dash risk checklist is used by Idvas and other frontline professionals to identify high risk cases of domestic abuse and to decide which cases should be referred to Marac and what other support might be required.


Sexual abuse: When a perpetrator exercises control over their victim through unwanted and non-consensal sexual acts or behaviours. Sexual abuse typically includes a pattern of abuse. 


Sexual assault: When a perpetrator exploits a victim through non-consensal sexual acts by touching any part of the victim’s body, with any part of their body or an object. 


Sexual violence: Violent behaviour that includes acts or threats of rape or sexual assault. 


Sexual exploitation: Sexual exploitation can happen to adults and children, and most often occurs when the perpetrator holds a position of power over the victim, perhaps due to age, status or physical strength. The victim is coerced into performing sexual acts in exchange for things such as money or gifts, or they might be unknowingly tricked or blackmailed.


Silent treatment: A manipulative and emotionally / psychologically abusive technique where one partner cuts off verbal communication with another for more than a reasonable amount of time where one would need to ‘cool off’. An abuser will often give the silent treatment as a result of a fight with the victim. The silent treatment can range from days to weeks (or longer), and is used to communicate the abuser’s displeasure, disapproval and contempt toward the victim. During this time the victim becomes so uneasy that they are walking on eggshells, and will do just about anything, including forgiving the abuser of whatever event triggered the silent treatment to start.


Stalking: When a person engages in unsolicited acts towards another person, including following them, watching or spying on them, or forcing contact through any means, including social media. Stalking is a pattern of harassment that curtails a victim’s freedom and causes them alarm and distress.


Stonewalling: Is a general refusal to communicate or cooperate and is sometimes accompanied by the ‘silent treatment’. The act of stonewalling is emotionally exhausting for the victim, as they are the ones left to do all the work (emotionally or physically).


Survivor: We refer to any person who has experienced domestic abuse as a survivor. The authentic voices of survivors are at the heart and start of our work.


Tech abuse: When a perpetrator exercises control over their victim through online or digital means. 


Train the Trainer: A course delivered by SafeLives to train local trainers in Domestic Abuse Matters so they can train other professionals in their area to help them spot the early signs of domestic abuse and understand the tactics used by perpetrators. 


Triangulation: Creating some form of drama or chaos, with the abuser in the middle, generally involving two rivals, and manipulating them into a conflict with each other. This is either done for the entertainment of the abuser or to deflect blame/accountability from themselves.


Victim: Victims of domestic abuse are people who currently live in danger. This is different to a ‘survivor’ which describes the person from the moment they start to receive support/move on from the abuse.


Walking on eggshells: Watching what you say or do around a certain person because of fear. 


Word salad: Is recognisable through circular conversations and repetition, lack of logic, sweeping generalisations, use of words that are disjointed or unrelated to context, and contradictions. Essentially, it consists of a lack of semantic fluidity. The rationale with this strategy is to demonstrate that there is no solution

the abuser can be a part of because the victim is the problem. Repetition eventually wears the victim out and they give up in exhaustion.


Young Person’s Violence Advisor (Ypva): A specialist professional who works with young people affected by domestic abuse to provide independent practical advice and support. ‘Young people’ refers to those aged between 13 to 18 years old.


Young Person’s Risk Identification Checklist (YP RIC): A tool that has been adapted from the SafeLives Dash Risk Identification Checklist to identify high risk cases of domestic abuse, stalking and ‘honour’-based abuse in young people (typically aged between 13 and 17). It helps to identify cases to be reviewed at a Marac and inform referrals to children’s social care.


Verbal abuse: When a perpetrator exercises control over their victim through an incident or pattern of incidents of disempowering, devaluing or disrespectful verbal communications. It can include blame, criticisms, judgement, manipulation, or using guilt towards the victim. Verbal abuse can be carried out online as well as in person. 

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