About domestic and family violence

Understanding domestic and family violence helps you to respond effectively.

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Domestic and family violence

Domestic and family violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour in an intimate relationship or other type of family relationship where one person assumes a position of power over another and causes fear. It is also known as domestic violence, family violence or intimate partner violence.

This kind of violence can occur in many different relationships, for example: between husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend; between adults and children or adults and older parents; between extended family members like aunts, uncles and grandparents; or between people living together in a non-sexual relationship.

It is often referred to as a pattern of coercion and control. Abusers are sometimes called ‘perpetrators of violence’.

Domestic and family violence does not always stop when the relationship ends, so it can also occur between ex-partners.

Abusers use many tactics to maintain power and control, such as:

  • Physical assaults, for example choking, beatings, pushing and threatening harm.

  • Acts of sexual violence, forced sex or forcing someone to do sexual acts they don’t wish to do.

  • Emotional abuse, name calling and put downs, disrespectful treatment.

  • Isolation from supports, family and community, or using family and community to intimidate. This can include sending texts or posting on Facebook.

  • Stalking or monitoring ‘every move’, including stalking on the internet, through social media, use of GPS tracking devices etc.

  • Psychological abuse, such as blaming the person being abused for the behaviour; telling the person being abused that they have mental health problems or anxiety disorders; manipulating or deliberately twisting reality; moving personal belongings or furniture and then denying that this has been done; and denying that the abusive behaviour occurred.

  • Financial abuse, such as denying living expenses or ‘housekeeping money’; preventing someone from working; manipulating the child support system; intimidating someone to sign legal and financial documents that put them in debt; standing over someone to demand money.

  • Preventing someone from practicing their spirituality or faith, or forcing them to adopt a faith or spirituality which is not their own.

  • Harming or threatening to harm loved ones including children

  • Harming or threatening to harm pets.

  • Legal abuse, such as exploiting the family law system to intimidate, exhaust, exploit or disempower someone.

Abusers can exert control in ways that are unique to each relationship. In some relationships, withholding supplies of drugs is a pattern of control. Manipulative behaviours, like threatening suicide or self-harm when someone tries to leave a relationship, are also part of a pattern of control. In a situation where a woman with a disability is reliant on assistance or care, the withdrawal of that care or the manipulation of that care in ways that establish a pattern or control is an unacceptable use of power. Undermining mothering by preventing settling or breastfeeding of infants is a form of domestic and family violence. 

Women are more likely to experience domestic and family violence

Statistics show that domestic and family violence is most likely to be committed by men against women.

Some groups of women are at greater risk of experiencing domestic and family violence:

  • Pregnant women.

  • Separated women.

  • Women with disabilities.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Some facts about domestic and family violence

  • Women are more likely to experience violence committed by partners or ex-partners.

  • Abusers can be charming and respected in their community, or portray themselves as victims. People who live with domestic and family violence often comment they are living with a ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, or a ‘street angel/home demon’.

  • Abusers will often deny their abuse or blame the person they abuse. They feel justified or entitled to behave abusively.

  • Children who live with domestic and family violence are affected by it, even when they can’t see or hear the violence. This is because of the fear and disruption to home life experienced by their carers. For children, domestic and family violence is trauma.

  • Gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex people can also be in violent or abusive relationships.

Other types of violence in the home

All violence is unacceptable. As well as domestic and family violence, other types of violence occur in families and relationships. These are not necessarily linked to behaviour patterns of power and control, but they are harmful to individuals and to family and community harmony.

Violence can occur within any kind of relationship. This includes violence by women towards men, violence targeting older people or people with disabilities, and violence by teenagers towards parents.

People who experience other types of violence or abuse in the home can be hurt, harmed or shamed in similar ways to people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Child abuse is also a form of violence in the home and is never acceptable. If you are a young person experiencing abuse, you can contact KidsHelpline on 1800 55 1800, or call the police on 000. If you are in immediate danger call the police on 000.

If you experience any of these other types of violence in a relationship or within your family, the information in this site will still be of value, and many of the services listed here will be helpful. The 1800RESPECT line can provide support and information for people living with all types of relationship abuse or violence at home. Call 1800 737 732.


In case of immediate danger call 000 for police assistance.

To make emergency calls using TTY or the National Relay Service, see http://relayservice.gov.au/making-a-call/emergency-calls/

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