What is family and domestic violence

It’s any behaviour that is violent, threatening, controlling or intended to make you or your family feel scared and unsafe.

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Family and domestic violence isn’t always physical. It can happen to anyone, at any time, no matter their age, gender or sexual orientation. It can happen anywhere, including at home or at work.

It can cause you to live in fear for yourself and your family. This can happen even when you have left a violent relationship.

Family and domestic violence can include, but isn’t limited to:

Physical violence

Any violent behaviour or threats of violence. It can be directed at you, or your children, pets or property.

It might be:

  • punching
  • hitting
  • kicking
  • pushing
  • choking.

Sexual assault

Sexual behaviour you don’t want, such as being forced into sexual activity against your will.

Verbal or emotional abuse

Behaviour that makes you feel worthless and put down. This can include yelling, insulting, name-calling and swearing.

Controlling behaviour

Controlling behaviour makes you do or believe things you wouldn’t normally. You may be stopped from seeing people or leaving the house. You may be stopped from spiritual or cultural participation that’s important to you.


Behaviour that makes you feel harassed or intimidated. This could be:

  • repeated phone calls or messages
  • unwanted or obsessive attention
  • someone following or monitoring you.

Technology facilitated abuse

When someone monitors what you do online. This may include:

  • checking your computer and phone use
  • using spyware on your phone to track you
  • publishing intimate photos of you without your consent.

Financial abuse

Behaviour limiting your access to money. Warning signs might be:

  • not being able to have money of your own
  • not being able to work
  • having to account for how you spend your money.

Abuse of older Australians

Deliberate or unintentional harmful behaviour in a relationship of trust with an older person. It’s any violence or mistreatment that causes harm or distress to an older person. It could be:

  • emotional
  • psychological
  • financial
  • physical
  • social
  • sexual
  • neglect.

Types of relationships

Family and domestic violence can affect anyone in all types of relationships. It can occur in:

  • past or current intimate relationships. This includes dating or living together, regardless of gender or sexuality
  • relationships involving carers of people with a disability or a medical condition
  • relationships with relatives and guardians
  • culturally recognised family groups.

Related subjects

Page last updated: 11 January 2021