Who is at risk?

  • Some people are at greater risk of sexual assault, domestic and family violence than others
  • Certain people are also at greater risk of particular types of domestic and family violence
  • It helps to be aware of these factors when supporting someone
  • Sexual, domestic and family violence are never OK. No matter what your gender, sexuality, religion, or cultural background, or the type of relationship involved, support is available.

Are some people at greater risk of domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone. It occurs in all races, religions and genders. It can be experienced by people with a lot of money or those living in poverty, by people who are in an intimate relationship and those who are not. However, domestic and family violence is most often committed by men against women. 

People belonging to certain groups or communities may experience higher rates of domestic and family violence than others. Some people can also experience forms of violence specific to a part of their culture, identity or situation. They may also experience unique challenges in finding support or leaving a violent situation. Affected people may include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Separated women
  • People with disability
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • Older people
  • People who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (LGBTI)
  • Women living in areas that have recently been affected by disaster.

Different groups and communities also have higher rates of different types of violence. Some people belong to more than one group, which creates a unique set of risks for them. There are a range of services in Australia that offer specialist support for people with unique risks when it comes to sexual assault, domestic and family violence. You can get more information about the sorts of services available to you at our Services overview page. You can also visit our Service Directory for local services that can support you.

Click on the headings below to read more about the unique risks faced by different groups.

Some people can experience forms of violence specific to a part of their culture, identity or situation. They may also experience unique challenges in finding support or leaving a violent situation.

Being pregnant can increase a woman’s risk for experiencing domestic or family violence, even when the pregnancy is planned by both parents.

Domestic and family violence during pregnancy is not uncommon. It can begin during pregnancy, or if there was already violence in the relationship it can increase during pregnancy and early motherhood.

Some factors that may further increase the risk for violence during pregnancy are:

  • Perpetrator jealousy and control in response to the pregnancy
  • Existing violence in a relationship
  • Being a younger mother 
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • A history of reproductive control 

If you are pregnant, a new mother, or planning a pregnancy and worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To read more about the types of services available to people who are experiencing sexual assault, domestic and family violence, see our Services overview.

You can read more about domestic and family violence in pregnancy at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Women who are separated are more likely to experience intimate partner violence than married women. Sometimes violence follows separation, or the decision to separate may be because there is already violence in the relationship.

Women who leave a violent partner may be at increased risk of violence that is more severe or that causes death. This is one of the reasons that for some women, 'just leaving' is not always the safest option.

Perpetrators may use a range of tactics to scare their partner into not leaving a relationship, including threatening to:

  • Cut off financial support
  • Take away their children
  • Take the house or other joint assets
  • Harm pets if you are not there to take care of them
  • Tell friends or family you are a bad spouse
  • Hurt themselves

If you are a separated woman and worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To read more about the types of services available to people who are experiencing sexual assault, domestic and family violence, see our Services overview.

For more information on domestic and family violence and separation, see Relationships Australia's Safe from Violence resource.

A wide range of perpetrators can be responsible for the violence people with disability experience, including:

  • Intimate partners
  • Family members
  • Paid or unpaid carers
  • Staff or other residents in institutions
  • Disability support workers

An organisation or the State can also be a perpetrator of violence. This is called institutional or structural violence.

Women with disability

Gendered disability violence is violence directed against a woman because she is a woman and because she has disability. The effects of gendered disability violence can last a long time and may be made worse by obstacles to finding help and support.

Compared to other women, women with disability experience higher levels of all forms of violence. The injuries they experience as a result of violence tend to be more severe and the violence is more varied in nature.

Forms of violence

As a person with disability you can experience all the types of violence that other people experience. However, there are some types of violence you are more at risk of, including: 

Physical violence, including being:

  • Denied food, water, heat, medication or support services when you need them
  • Given medicine or drugs to stop you from moving freely
  • Tied, locked up, or retrained in any way
  • Touched or handled roughly while being cared for
  • Deliberately hurt anywhere on your body
  • Destroying, changing or withholding disability-related equipment
  • Neglect

Sexual violence, including being:

  • Touched in sexual ways while being cared for
  • Reproductive violence, including being forced or pressured into:
    • Having a baby
    • Having an abortion
    • Having an operation to stop you from being able to have a baby
    • Taking medecines to stop you having your periods
    • Having sex or doing sexual things
  • Watched while undressing
  • Left naked

Psychological and emotional violence, including being:

  • Yelled at and called names
  • Told that you don't have a disability or it's not as bad as you say it is
  • Told you will be taken away or locked up
  • Told you will be stopped from having the things you need
  • Told that your guide dog, pets, carers, family members or friends will be hurt

Controlling behaviours, including being:

  • Stopped from making decisions about what happens to your body
  • Cut off from family, friends or your local community
  • Denied important information about your health, money or other parts of your life
  • Stopped from talking to a doctor or other service provider on your own
  • Stopped from being able to get a job or do a training course

Financial abuse, including:

  • Stealing your money
  • Taking control of your money, including your pension
  • Refusing to pay for your medicines or your disability-related equipment
  • Forcing you to pay for things you don't want

If you are a person with disability and are worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To find a specialist disability support service in your local area you can search our Service directory.

If you are a professional wanting to know more about supporting client with disability, you can visit our People with disability professionals page.

As an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, your risk of experiencing violence is twice that of non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In remote communities, these rates can be much higher.

As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman or girl you are more likely than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls to:

  • Experience family violence
  • Be hurt by family violence so badly they need to stay in hospital
  • Die due to family violence

The violence can involve all the same types of abuse other women and girls experience. Sometimes there are things about the violence that are particular to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture. This might include things like stopping you from being involved with your community, or not letting you return home to country.

There are also certain barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may experience in seeking support or reporting violence. These might include:

  • Fear of repercussions within the community
  • Concerns about confidentiality and anonymity within small, isolated or highly interconnected communities
  • Fear and distrust of police, the justice system and other government agencies
  • Family and community pressure to protect the perpetrator or to allow the issue to be handled by the community or family
  • Not being aware of or having access to support services

If you are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and are worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To find specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support services, you can search our Service directory.

If you are a professional wanting to know more about supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, you can visit our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples professionals page.

As a person from a CALD background, you can experience all the types of violence that other women experience. However, there are some types of violence you are at greater risk of. These include:  

  • Being stopped from learning English
  • Being cut off from friends, family or others who speak your language
  • Having documents such as passports, citizenship certificates, and other important papers destroyed
  • Being stopped from getting information in a language you understand
  • Having the beliefs of your culture or the country you were born in used against you
  • Not being allowed to participate in cultural activities and traditions
  • Being forced to marry or be in a relationship when you don’t want to

The language you speak should never stop you from getting help. It is important to know:

  • Counselling and support services for sexual assault or domestic and family violence are available for everyone
  • There are services that can support women from migrant, refugee and CALD communities 
  • The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is available 24 hours a day 

If you are a person from a CALD background and are worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To read information on domestic and family violence in your first language, see our Languages section.

To find specialist CALD support services, you can search our Service directory.

If you are a professional wanting to know more about supporting CALD clients, you can visit our CALD professionals page.

As someone who identifies as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB), you are as likely as non-LGB people to experience domestic and family violence. Current data, while limited, suggests that people who identify as transgender or intersex experience much higher rates of violence.

Risk may be increased for anyone identifying as LGBTI due to fears or obstacles in sharing or reporting their experience and seeking help. Violence in LGBTI relationships can also involve tactics that are unique to the relationship or a person's LGBTI identity. 

A perpetrator may use many different things to gain power and control over someone who is LGBTI, including:

  • Gender or sexuality
  • HIV status
  • Homophobic, transphobic and heterosexist attitudes
  • Privilege, including whether they are 'out' or not or whether they 'pass' or not

Domestic and family violence for people in LGBTI relationships can create unique and valid worries, including fears of:

  • Being 'outed'
  • Your community finding out, or of being isolated from LGBTI communities
  • Being given fewer visitation rights or having your children taken from you due to different legal rights for non-biological parents
  • Discrimination or minimisation by police, legal systems and service provider
  • Financial problems due to LGBTI relationships not being recognised in the same way as heterosexual relationships
  • Having nowhere to go that is safe
  • Having fewer informal supports: many LGBTI people have lost the support of family due to their gender identity or sexuality

If you are a person who identifies as LGBTI and are worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To find a specialist LGBTI support service in your local area you can search our Service directory.

For more information on domestic and family violence in LGBTI relationships, visit Say It Out Loud.

If you are a professional wanting to know more about supporting LGBTI clients, you can visit our LGBTI professionals page.

Older people can experience all of the types of violence that other people experience. However, if you are an older person there are some types of abuse you are more at risk of.

Physical violence, including being:

  • Stopped from having food, water, heat, medication or support services when you need them
  • Given medicine or drugs to stop you from moving freely
  • Tied or locked up, or stopped from moving freely
  • Treated roughly when being cared for
  • Deliberately hurt anywhere on your body
  • Neglect

 Sexual violence, including being:

  • Touched in unwanted sexual ways while being cared for
  • Being watched while undressing
  • Being left naked

 Psychological and emotional violence, including being:

  • Yelled at and called names
  • Told you will be taken away or locked up
  • Told you will be stopped from having the things you need

If you are an older person and are worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

To find specialist support services for older people, you can search our Service directory.

For more information on elder abuse, visit the Seniors Rights Victoria website.

In times of disaster, violence against women and their children increases. Some women experience violence for the first time and others experience an increase in violence.

After a disaster stress, loss and grief affect everyone, but the stresses of disaster are no excuse for violence.

Violence in times of disaster can include all the usual forms of domestic and family violence, but may also involve being:

  • Prevented from evacuating
  • Blocked from accessing survival essentials: transport, water, heat, finances, emergency plans, support services or important documents
  • Brought back in contact with a violent ex-partner in the chaos of the disaster, for example at an evacuation centre or community hub
  • Forced to take unnecessary risks with personal safety
  • Forced to exchange sex for necessities like food water or shelter

If you live in a disaster affected area and are worried about domestic and family violence, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through our online chat service.

If you are a professional and want to find out more about supporting women experiencing violence in times of disaster, see our Violence in times of disaster professionals page.

To read more about violence in times of disaster, visit the Gender and Disaster Pod.