How does the academic literature describe subtle or covert abuse within heterosexual or same sex intimate partner relationships? A scoping review protocol

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


Objective: To understand how academic literature on domestic violence has described or defined subtle, non-physical abuse in intimate heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
Introduction: Academic literature frequently refers to subtle or covert abuse in intimate relationships. However, how this kind of abuse is recognised by therapists who work with victims has not yet been researched. Without understanding how clients experiencing subtle abuse present in therapy, therapists may misunderstand the causes of their distress and do more harm than good. The scoping review aims to understand how the current literature such as Marshall (1994), Loring (1994), Lammers et al. (2005) and Burnett (2020) describes or defines subtle or covert abuse to inform future research to enable therapists to recognise subtle abuse in their clients.
Inclusion criteria: Academic work that describes or defines subtle or covert abuse in intimate partner relationships based on primary research or discussion papers published in English. Work will be excluded if it only describes abuse which is overt non-physical or physical.
Methods: Domestic violence literature MeSH terms and keywords found in preliminary searches were used to design initial search strategies. Final terms based on these were chosen in discussion with a librarian, and cover population, concept and context. These terms will be used in the following databases: PsychINFO (EBSCO), Medline Complete (EBSCO), CINAHL (EBSCO), PsychARTICLES (EBSCO) and Scopus. Searches will be conducted between 1950 and 2021.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJBI Evidence Synthesis
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Jul 2022


  • Domestic violence
  • intimate partner violence
  • Covert abuse
  • Non-physical abuse
  • Subtle abuse

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