Family violence, or domestic violence, is a pattern of behaviour where one person tries to
dominate and control the other. Family violence is a deliberate act and is rarely an isolated event. Over time, the violence tends to increase in frequency and severity.
Family violence can include a range of behaviours, including those below.
Physical abuse isn’t only an act that causes physical harm. Threatening to harm someone is also a form of physical abuse.
All the following are forms of physical abuse, even if the violence is threatened but not carried out.
- Hitting, punching, pulling by the hair, choking, pinching, pushing, stabbing or restraining you in any way. Physical injuries are often directed at parts of the body that other people will not see.
- Using weapons to frighten you or causing damage to property.
- Not letting you sleep, eat, or take your medication.
- Harming your pets.
- Harassing or threatening you.
- Saying things to frighten you. For example, telling you that the children will live with them if you leave.
- Calling you insulting names.
- Undermining you as a parent in front of the children.
- Putting you down in front of others.
- Lying about you to other people.
- Isolating you from people who do support you.
- Not letting you visit a doctor on your own.
- Controlling your life; not letting you have a life outside the home.
- Forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to or making you engage in sexual practices you are not comfortable with.
- Making you wear clothes you are not comfortable with.
- Making you look at, or pose for, pornographic photos or videos.
- Controlling the money so you are dependent.
- Forcing you to sign for loans you might not agree with.
- Questioning you about every purchase you make.
- Using joint finances for personal use.
- Incurring debts for which you are also responsible.
- Preventing you from practising your own religious beliefs or cultural practices.
- Forcing you to follow a religion you don’t want to.
- Withdrawing from you and not giving you support.
- Controlling you through anger or not speaking to you.
- Expressing extreme jealousy.
- Not letting you use the phone or transport.
- Not giving you an opportunity to choose for yourself.
- Constantly making phone calls to you or sending text messages, emails, faxes, letters or unwanted gifts to you.
- Loitering near your home or workplace.
- Spying on you or following you, including through the use of electronic means.
Family violence and children
- Children are affected by family violence, even if the violence is not directed at them. For example, if they hear, witness or are exposed to the behaviour or its effects, such as a distressed adult, an injured person or damaged property.
Sometimes, violent and controlling behaviour falls into more than one type of abuse, or it might not seem to fit into any of the categories listed here.
What matters is whether someone is controlled or is fearful as a result of the behaviour. Any behaviour or action that constitutes family violence is unacceptable, even if it is not a criminal offence.
Family Violence Protection Act
Section 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) defines ‘family violence’ as:
- Behaviour by a person towards a family member that:
- Is physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically or economically abusive
- Is threatening or coercive
- In any way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for their safety or wellbeing or that of another person
- Behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or see or otherwise be exposed to the effects of behaviour referred to above.
Family violence also includes:
- Assaulting or causing personal injury to a family member or threatening to do so
- Sexually assaulting a family member or engaging in another form of sexually coercive behaviour or threatening to engage in such behaviour
- Intentionally damaging a family member’s property, or threatening to do so
- Unlawfully depriving a family member of their liberty, or threatening to do so
- Causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the family member to whom the behaviour is directed, so as to control, dominate or coerce the family member.
Behaviour may constitute family violence even if the behaviour would not constitute a criminal offence.
A 24-hour, national, confidential information, counselling and support service for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence.
Phone: 1800 737 732
A 24-hour national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns.
Relationships Australia Victoria
A provider of family violence prevention, support and recovery services, including Men’s Behaviour Change Programs, and counselling and support groups for those affected by family violence.
Phone: 1300 364 277
Safe from violence booklet
This information sheet has been developed from Relationships Australia’s Safe from violence booklet, available to download or order from our website.
Download a PDF copy of this tip sheet here.