The terminology around domestic violence can seem confusing and although many of them essentially mean the same thing it is important to understand them and some people have a preference for one rather than another.

  • Domestic Violence
  • DV – an abbreviation of domestic violence
  • Domestic Family Violence
  • DFV – abbreviation of domestic family violence
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Family Abuse
  • Domestic Family Abuse
  • DFA – abbreviation of domestic family abuse.
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • IPV – abbreviation of intimate partner violence
  • Childhood Domestic Violence
  • Spousal Abuse

Even as I write this I am unsure whether or not to include Violence Against Women (VAW) because I think of this as violence outside of partner and family. Is this just my perception?

Know the terminology.

There may be other I have not heard. It may seem confusing to have so many different names for what essentially seems to mean the same thing. I think the most important thing is to know the terminology. If we get too caught up on using the ‘correct’ term we are missing the opportunity for a deeper conversation.

I often use different terms depending on who I am speaking with or writing for. Sometimes it comes downs to something as simple as word count.

Psychological abuse does feel violent.

Often I will use the word abuse because the word violence tends to bring up images of physical violence, excluding thoughts of other types of abuse. There is a tendency to think psychological abuse is not violent. I can state unequivocally that it can feel very violent. But, for me the most important thing is to use terminology that engages people.

What is an acceptable term?

If I am honest I look at the list and I honestly don’t know which one truly reflects the horrors I went through behind closed doors, none of them seem overly relatable. Although I do not know a term which could.  How do you even find an acceptable term to describe something so unacceptable.

So, for me I use which ever term the organisation or person I am talking to is more comfortable with. Because the conversation is difficult and the more at ease we can feel the better. And I know my opinion is just that, an opinion.

Engagement in the discussion is good.

I can understand some people will feel strongly about one term over another and I think having strong feelings is good it means they engaged in wanting to help bring about change. But, it is important we don’t get too caught up in semantics because if we do we are simply being distracted from what really matters and that must be reducing the horrifying rates of abuse worldwide.

So, call it what you will; I am in for the long haul, to help organisations know how to change their culture and become part of the solution. Because unfortunately it is going to be a long haul, but that is better than where we were a decade ago.




Lisa McAdams

About Lisa: Lisa is a survivor of domestic violence who shares her story openly; along with knowledge and understanding of abuse and her experience from her time in corporate to help companies develop an organisational culture of empathy and understanding.

She helps by bringing insights on this complex and emotional subject, ensuring managers understand the issue, the signs and how to communicate with those impacted by domestic violence.

Lisa is passionate about educating workplaces so they can ensure women in abusive relationships remain in the workplace. Because employment improves outcomes and can ultimately save lives.

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