What is physical abuse?
Physical abuse is the most widely recognised and understood form of abuse. Although abuse is not limited to physical abuse, and not all abuse becomes violent, it does pose a very real and immediate threat to individual safety. It can be defined as any violence or intentional bodily injury including indirect physically harmful behaviour, such as the withholding of physical needs, or the threat of violence.
Examples of physical abuse
Direct assault on the body including scratching, punching, biting, strangling, kicking, slapping, pushing, pulling hair, burning, drowning, grabbing clothing.
Throwing something at you, for example a phone, book, crockery, footwear, or other household items.
Destruction of property.
Violence against other family members or pets.
Use of weapons.
Physical restraint, for example being trapped in a room, having an exit blocked, being held down, grabbing to prevent you from leaving or forcing you to go somewhere, or holding someone hostage.
Coercing a partner into substance abuse.
Withholding of physical needs, for example denying food, restricting mobility, preventing access to medical help if sick or injured, refusing or rationing necessities, controlling or withholding medication.
Abuse from those with caring responsibilities might include force feeding, withdrawal of medicine or over-medication.
Types of physical abuse within families also include female genital mutilation (FGM) or so-called "honour crimes".
The 2017 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that some respondents thought it was always, mostly or sometimes acceptable to hit or slap a partner in response to:
- Having an affair or cheating on them (7.1%)
- Flirting with other people (2%)
- Constantly nagging or moaning (1.5%) (ONS, 2018).