What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling one’s partner or ex-partner through fear. Family violence is a broader term referring to violence between family members, as well as violence between intimate partners. Physical violence is just one of a range of tactics used by a perpetrator to exercise power and control. Domestic violence can take many forms. Some common forms of domestic violence are:

Emotional abuse

Examples include: Blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship; undermining the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth through comparisons with others; withdrawing interest and engagement; emotional blackmail.

Verbal abuse

Examples include: Swearing and humiliation in private and/or public; criticism of the other’s intelligence, sexuality, body, or capacity as a parent or spouse.

Social abuse

Examples include: Systematic isolation from family and friends; relocations to places where the victim has no social circle or employment opportunities; preventing access to engage with other individuals or groups.

Economic abuse

Examples include: Controlling all money; forbidding access to bank accounts; providing an inadequate ‘allowance’; preventing the victim from seeking or holding employment; taking wages earned by the victim.

Psychological abuse

Examples include: Making threats regarding custody of children; asserting the legal system will not believe or support the victim; destroying property; abusing pets; driving dangerously.

Physical abuse

Examples include: Direct assaults on the body; use of weapons; use of household items as weapons; sleep and food deprivation.

Sexual abuse

Examples include: Any form of pressured/unwanted sex or sexual degradation; deliberately or carelessly causing pain during sex; coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease; degrading insults.


One in six women and one in sixteen men experience partner violence after the age of 15.

One in four women and one in six men report experiencing emotional abuse by a current and/or previous partner after the age of 15.

Women are eight times more likely to experience sexual violence by a partner than men (ABS Personal Safety Survey, 2016)

(Rose, D., Trevillion, K., Woodall, A., Morgan, C., Feder, G., & Howard, L. (2010). ‘Barriers and facilitators of disclosures of domestic violence by mental health service users: qualitative study’, The British Journal of Psychiatry, bjp-bp.)