Physical abuse

Physical abuse is often what we think of when we talk about Domestic Abuse, and this often how abuse is represented in the media. 

Physical abuse 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 include

  • 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

  • Sexual abuse

  • 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”.

All forms of physical abuse, no matter the circumstances or the level of harm done, should be taken seriously by the police. 

How to spot signs of physical abuse?

The existence of any of the following does not mean necessarily mean an individual is experiencing physical abuse, however some signs could be:

  • Frequent injuries, multiple bruising. Common areas could be wrists, neck, bruises on arms, black eyes, or busted lips.

  • Untreated injuries in various stages of healing suggests that injuries have been sustained over a prolonged period of time and could be a sign of frequent abuse.

  • No explanation for injuries of inconsistencies in the account of what happened.

  • Covering up injuries, for example by wearing long sleeves or scarves in hot weather, wearing easier makeup than usual, or sunglasses to cover bruising.

  • Physical abuse may also cause a change in behaviour such as increased agitation, anxiety, seeming fearful, low self-esteem, depression, loss of interest in or cancelling activities, overly apologetic or meek, excessive privacy concerning home life, or isolating oneself.

It is not unusual for abuse to begin at a low-level and escalate into more serious forms of physical abuse once it is harder for a victim to leave.

It is important to understand that leaving an abuser is dangerous and if you suspect someone is experiencing physical abuse you should not pressure them to leave their abuser before they are ready or before they have an adequate safety plan in place. 

If you are experiencing abuse, you are not alone. In an emergency call 999 or 11 for your local Police force.

If you would like help from Broxtowe Women’s Project contact us on 01773 719111 or email

For more information on other types of abuse see:

Types of Abuse – Broxtowe Women’s Project (