About domestic and family violence

What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence is when one person in a relationship uses violence or abuse to control the other person. Domestic and family violence is usually an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear.

Regardless of whether you are a young person or an older person, whether you have been in your relationship for many years or just a short time, it's important to consider whether your relationship is safe and respectful.

In your relationship with your partner, you have the right to:

  • express your opinions and have them respected (even if your partner does not agree with you)
  • take the relationship at your own pace
  • have your feelings about any sexual activities respected and accepted
  • have your physical and emotional needs treated as equally important to your partner's
  • not be abused.

Domestic and family violence can include:

  • emotional abuse (e.g. criticising your personality, how you look or your parenting skills)
  • verbal abuse (e.g. yelling, shouting and swearing at you)
  • stalking and harassment (e.g. constantly following, texting or phoning you, cyberstalking or tracking you through social media or Global Positioning Systems (GPS) i.e. 'find my phone' and location services on smart phones and apps).
  • financial abuse (e.g. not giving you enough money to survive, or forcing you to hand over your money)
  • physical abuse (e.g. slapping, hitting, pushing or trying to strangle you)
  • damaging property to frighten you (e.g. punching holes in walls or breaking furniture)
  • social abuse (e.g. not letting you see your friends or family, isolating you from people you care about)
  • spiritual abuse (e.g. forcing you to attend religious activities or stopping you from taking part in your religious or cultural practices)
  • sexual abuse (e.g. forcing or coercing you to have sex)
  • depriving you of the necessities of life such as food, shelter and medical care.

Domestic and family violence can also be threats, including threats to:

  • hurt or kill you, your children, pets, relatives, friends or work colleagues
  • damage your personal items to frighten and intimidate you
  • take away your freedom of movement (e.g. locking you in the house)
  • stop taking care of you (if you are an elderly person, or have a disability and rely on the other person to take care of you)
  • disclose your sexual orientation to other people against your wishes
  • commit suicide, harm themselves, or threaten to harm themselves to intimidate and control you.

Every year people die from domestic and family violence, even when there has been no history of physical violence. All forms of violence and controlling, obsessive and jealous behaviours should be taken seriously.

Find out how to get help if you are affected by domestic and family violence.

Signs of domestic and family violence

Someone experiencing domestic and family violence may:

  • seem afraid of their partner or someone close to them
  • try to hide bruises (e.g. by wearing long sleeves in summer, or giving unlikely explanations for injuries)
  • have little or no say about how money is spent
  • stop seeing friends and family and become isolated
  • become depressed, unusually quiet or lose confidence
  • show signs of neglect if they are older or have a disability
  • have a partner who frequently accuses them of cheating or continually checks up on them
  • be reluctant to leave their children with their partner
  • suspect they are being stalked or followed.

They may be in greater danger if:

  • there is a history of domestic and family violence
  • violence has escalated within the relationship
  • their partner is stalking or monitoring their movements
  • they separate or plan to separate from their partner
  • they start a new relationship or their ex-partner believes they have
  • there is conflict within the broader family
  • there are issues about child custody or access to children
  • they are pregnant
  • there is financial hardship or unemployment
  • the partner has a history of physical violence, mental illness or access to weapons.

Find out how to support someone experiencing domestic and family violence.

Impact of domestic and family violence on children and young people

Children and young people are also affected by domestic and family violence—even if they haven’t directly seen or heard the abuse or violence.

Children affected by domestic and family violence could:

  • try to stop the abuse and thereby put themselves at risk
  • blame themselves
  • copy the abusive behaviour, bully others or be cruel to animals
  • be bullied by others
  • feel fearful, nervous, guilty or depressed
  • relapse into bed wetting and thumb sucking or have nightmares
  • show changes in their school behaviour and performance
  • have unexplained ailments including headaches, asthma and stuttering
  • run away from home
  • attempt suicide or self-harm
  • abuse drugs and alcohol.

Phone Triple Zero (000) if it's an emergency or if you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation. If you have reason to suspect a child is experiencing, or is at risk of abuse, contact a Regional Intake Service (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre on 1800 177 135 (24 hours a day) if outside business hours. Find out more about how to report child abuse.

If you’re a child or young person affected by domestic and family violence, find out what you can do.