About domestic and family violence

Domestic violence is more than a conflict or argument where both people feel they can freely express themselves; rather it occurs where one person attempts to control and dominate another in an intimate or familial relationship. It can affect anyone in the community; within married and de facto relationships, same-sex relationships, other intimate personal relationships between family members and in informal care relationships.

While domestic violence can be perpetrated by both men and women, DFV perpetrated by women against their male partners is significantly less and less likely to be frequent, prolonged and extreme.

Women and children are more likely to experience domestic and family violence perpetrated by men and it can have devastating effects on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, even after the relationship has ended. Women are more likely than men to be the victims of domestic homicide and suffer negative consequences such as anxiety and fear as well as injuries requiring medical treatment and time off work. Children who witness violence in the home experience emotional trauma and are also more likely to experience or use violence in their future relationships.

Many Aboriginal people prefer the term ‘Family Violence’ as it encompasses all forms of violence in intimate, family and other relationships of mutual obligation and support.

Types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse which is the use of any physical force to control or injure a person, including pushing, kicking, slapping (or threats to do so), damage to property, use of weapons etc.
  • Sexual abuse which is any unwanted sexual contact, including constant accusations of infidelity, the expectation that a woman will be sexually available whenever the abuser wants, rape, unwanted touching/sexual contact etc.
  • Financial abuse may include taking control of financial matters, preventing access to money, refusing money (for rent, children's activities, health needs etc.) adjusting Centrelink benefits etc.
  • Psychological, mental and emotional abuse is the most common type of abuse. It intends to destroy a person’s self-esteem and results in a person feeling humiliated, unworthy, guilty and degraded. It may include constant put-downs, offensive language, threats to commit suicide if the relationship ends, telling a person they are the primary cause of the relationship problems etc.
  • Verbal abuse is the consistent demeaning of another. It may take the form of angry outbursts or of cold, calculating, consistent put-downs. It may even take the form of disparaging humour.
  • Control of access to family and friends intends to isolate a person from their supports, including jeopardising or destroying relationships with family and friends, constantly checking up on whereabouts, moving town or house to isolate etc.
  • Stalking and harassment is when a partner or ex-partner follows or repeatedly makes contact with the person, even when it's been made clear the relationship is over.
  • Denial of freedom and choice is when a person restricts the freedom and/or the opportunity of another to make their own decisions and move about the world as they choose.
  • Manipulation is when a person uses shrewd or devious means to make a person act or behave in a way that is not of their choosing.

Key statistics for violence against women

  • 1 in 6 Australian women have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner
  • 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner
  • 89 women were killed by their current or former partner between 2008 – 2010. This equates to nearly one woman every week.
  • An estimated 26% of the 237,100 women who had experienced current partner violence had never told anyone about the violence by their current partner. (ABS Personal Safety Survey 2012)

The cost of violence against women is estimated to be $21.7 billion. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimated a total of $12.5 billion as an annual cost of partner violence perpetrated against women, in 2014-2015, with health cost being a significant $6.17 billion.

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