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Domestic and family violence

  • Domestic and family violence happens when one person in a relationship hurts another or makes them feel unsafe, and is a repeated pattern of behaviour
  • It can happen in any kind of relationship — not just with husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends (intimate partners)
  • Abuse doesn't have to involve hurt to your body, or physical violence, to be domestic or family violence
  • If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit our website for online chat and video call services:
    • Available 24/7: Call, text or online chat
    • Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST (except national public holidays): Video call (no appointment needed) 

Information on this page:

Who is affected by domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone — regardless of country, religion, sexuality, gender, social background socio-economic status, age or culture.

It can also happen in any relationship, including with:

  • Boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
  • Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • Carers or paid support workers
  • Parents, guardians or other family members
  • Adult children
  • Other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home

None of these people has the right to hurt you or make you live in fear. 

What does domestic and family violence involve?

Domestic and family violence can involve behaviour that makes you feel scared, involve threats to you, your children or pets, and denies your choice. Domestic and family violence almost always involves an ongoing repeated pattern of behaviour to control you. This is known as coercive control, which can include both physical and non-physical abuse.

People who use this kind of violence are sometimes called 'perpetrators of violence'.

Domestic and family violence is an ongoing repeated pattern of behaviour to control you. It is not always physical.

What forms can domestic and family violence take?

It is never OK for someone in a relationship to:

  • Tell you they will hurt you, your children, your pets, or people you care about
  • Say they will hurt themselves if you try to leave
  • Cut you off from friends or family
  • Refuse to provide essential care and support for you if they are your parent, guardian, carer, or paid support person
  • Make looking after a baby hard by not letting you feed or settle your baby
  • Scare you by following you, harassing you, or refusing to leave you alone
  • Control what you do, who you talk to or where you go
  • Make you question your own memory and mental health. Also known as gaslighting
  • Use the legal system to bully or intimidate you
  • Stop you from making decisions about whether or not to have a baby, or other reproductive issues
  • Stop you from having medicine you need or from seeing a doctor
  • Give you medicine you don't need or more medicine than you need
  • Take your money or use money to make your life hard
  • Touch you in ways or places you don’t want to be touched
  • Force you to have sex or do sexual things
  • Say and do things that make you feel scared or unsafe
  • Monitor your phone, social media and emails without your permission
  • Share private photos or videos of you online without your permission
  • Stop you from following your religion or cultural practices
  • Damage walls, parts of your home, or your things
  • Hit, kick, and do other things that hurt your body.

These are only some things that domestic and family violence may involve. There are many others. If anyone is making you feel scared, worried or unsafe, it is OK to ask for help. 

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is almost always an underpinning dynamic of family and domestic violence. Perpetrators exert power and dominance by using patterns of abusive behaviours over time that create fear and deny liberty and autonomy.

A person who uses coercive control may use the physical and/or non-physical abusive behaviours outlined above to make you afraid and take away your freedom and independence. Perpetrator behaviours can be subtle and specific to you. Sometimes, this means only you and the person using violence against you can tell how harmful the behaviour is. The impacts of coercive control are serious no matter which abusive behaviours are used.

Coercive control can have physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural, social and financial impacts. The impacts of coercive control also build up over time. A perpetrator’s abusive behaviours can make you feel trapped, making it harder to seek and receive support, or leave a relationship. 

The Australian Government has collaborated with all state and territory governments to develop the National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence (the National Principles). The National Principles create a shared national understanding of coercive control, which is important for improving the safety of Australians. Read more here.