Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence describes any act of direct or indirect violence or abuse (including acts of coercion or preventing the other person’s access to their rights) that is used by someone within the domestic sphere to exercise power  and control over another. It can include but is not limited to physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional, and financial abuse. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, social background, gender, religion, sexuality or ethnicity.

Most importantly, it is never because of the survivor.

Intimate-Partner Violence

Intimate-Partner Violence (IPV) refers to couples who experience domestic violence outside the bonds of marriage. They are usually couples who live together (usually same-sex couples) but in Malaysia, do not have access to the same protections under the Domestic Violence Act.

Dating Violence

Dating violence is when someone you are seeing romantically harms you in some way, whether it is physically, sexually, emotionally, or all three. Dating violence can occur anytime from the beginning of your relationship to years later, when you have fallen deeply i n love. Many of the signs, symptoms and effects of dating violence overlap with domestic violence.

Criminal Offences Related to Domestic Violence Under the Penal Code

Wrongful Confinement

Wrongful confinement can apply to family members who are forcefully or wrongfully restrained in order to prevent them from seeking help. An example of this could be preventing a survivor who is hurt from medical assistance or to lodge a police report.

Forced Sexual Acts (Not Including Vaginal Penetration)

This would apply in situations where the spouse was forced into having anal sex, penetration by an object (including sex toys) or perform oral sex without their consent. This includes situations where the spouse was beaten into doing so, or does so believing that their life or physical safety is at risk.

Criminal Force by Spouse

The definition of criminal force can be found under Section 350.

Causing Hurt

All three offences listed below can be committed by either spouse in a marriage.

Gross Indecency with a Child

Domestic violence also includes Child Sexual Assault. While this law can apply to anyone, it would also apply to parents and other family members.


Theft and Property




Power and Control

Domestic violence is about power and control – as evident by definition provided above. The  Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs in Duluth, Minnesota developed what is called the ‘Power and Control Wheel‘ to illustrate methods used by perpetrators to maintain power and control over the victim/ survivor.

The Outer Ring consists of acts of physical and sexual violence (and includes the types of abuses that are mentioned above such as financial and tech abuse). These acts of violence can be broken down into 8 common methods used by perpetrators in order to establish power and control.

When many of us think of home, we picture a place of comfort and security. A place that is a temporary haven, freeing us from the stress we face out in the world. We often seek refuge in this place we can cherish with loved ones. Unfortunately, for survivors of domestic violence, this is far from reality. Survivors of domestic violence often live under the same roof as their abuser.

Domestic violence is a pervasive issue that disproportionately sees women and girls as survivors. This form of violence may take place both inside and outside the home and there is a personal relationship between the perpetrator and survivor, such as a husband and wife or a parent and child.  Domestic violence operates in a cycle that keeps the survivor oppressed and the perpetrator in power. Since the survivor is oppressed, their ability to escape or seek help is compromised.

Due to the nature of the survivor’s personal relationship with the perpetrator, they often spend a great deal of time together. Making matters worse, the perpetrator often threatens the survivor not to tell even their closest friends and family that it’s been happening. This leaves the survivor feeling helpless to their self and any children that may be involved.  If there are children in the picture, the perpetrator may even use them as a threat, saying things such as “if you tell someone or try to run away, I’ll hurt the kids.” The perpetrator tends to be highly manipulative and dismisses the abuse as the survivor’s own fault rather than taking accountability.

It doesn’t all manifest the same way

  • Physical abuse
    Hitting, punching, kicking or other acts intended to inflict harm to the survivor
  • Psychological abuse
    Yelling, blaming, demeaning comments, name-calling, humiliating or other forms of asserting power over the survivor
  • Sexual abuse
    Committing sexual acts toward survivor without their consent, such as groping or raping
  • Social abuse
    Prohibiting the survivor from seeing friends and family, causing isolation
  • Financial abuse
    Taking away credit cards, preventing the survivor from employment or other acts that hinder the survivor’s financial freedom


Domestic violence destroys lives.

Abusers often to monitoring with regards to limiting the survivor’s interactions with the outside world in an attempt to block the survivor from getting help or leaving the relationship.

While Tech Abuse is not a commonly accepted form of domestic abuse, modern technology gives perpetrators ever-growing ways to stalk, isolate and control women using the tools of everyday life



Financial abuse – or economic abuse – is a way of controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and resources. In instances of domestic violence, financial abuse is used to prevent the survivor from leaving the relationship (Funds are needed to rent a home, transfer to a new location, get a lawyer et cetera). Controlling the person’s access to money is one way of gaining control over their activities.

In the case scenario, by limiting his spouses’s spending, the husband can dictate the woman’s activities. Any activity that allows his spouse freedom or independence is not desirable to him because it means that she is free from his control.

Financial abuse can take many forms. Abusers may prevent a woman from earning or accessing her own money (for example, by banning the survivor from going out to work, or sabotaging job interviews by creating problems at home, or forcing the survivor to take a loan to support the abuser); spend or take their money without consent; or damage their possessions or property.


Case ScenarioA husband decides that he is fed up with paying daycare bills for the children. He tells the wife since she barely makes money anyways, she should just stay home and watch the kids. The husband threatens to take away her access to the family credit card if she doesn’t obey him. Consequently, the wife resigns from her job and is left to depend solely on her husband for income. She needs extra money one month for a special dinner with a friend but is denied access to going “over her limit” on her husband’s credit card.

Not all scars are visible

Survivors of domestic violence may have physical ailments, while others have some that don’t quite meet the eye.  The emergence of mental health issues and debilitating psychological conditions commonly follow in the wake of domestic violence.  These ailments might manifest right away or take months to surface, but they are critical to identifying in yourself or someone you know in order to receive effective and timely treatment.

At first, symptoms may present as fear, anger, confusion, guilt or low self-esteem. Survivors also face a stigma that may prevent them from seeking help. An important thing to note is that the abuse was not their fault, nor should they feel guilty or ashamed.  Reaching out for help through friends, family or professional mental health workers can help to alleviate these effects. Even with support, chronic mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety may still become a reality.

Women facing post-traumatic stress disorder

We often make sense of our experiences by associating them with sentiments from a certain time and place.  This contributes to our “fight or flight” response which allows us to assess a situation and act accordingly. For those living with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), this hard-wiring has been taken to the extreme and causes the person to generalize all similar experiences in the future and link it to their past trauma. These are known as triggers that bring them back to the traumatic event. What was meant to be an evolutionary advantage now hinders their ability to cope with day to day life?

A survivor of domestic violence tells us, “With my former [partner], I could tell by how the gravel crunched in the driveway whether or not I was in for it that night. Crunching gravel in (my current locality) doesn’t mean the same thing, but my body didn’t know the difference. It just hears it and immediately goes into alert.”

Survivors are not alone

Daily life following domestic violence can feel very isolating. At AWAM, we recognize that there is not a “one size fits all” healing process and survivors’ stories are unique from one another. We are here to listen, help them find their voice and empower them to restore the peace and security that has been stolen from their lives.

Information compiled by Madeline Chow | Edited by Lochna Menon