What is family violence?

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Family violence can happen to anyone. It’s not your fault. Workers at The Orange Door have heard many stories like yours. We believe you. You will not be judged.

Family violence is most commonly carried out by men against women who are their current or former partners. This is known as intimate partner violence.

Women are most likely to experience violence by someone they know. 

About a quarter of women in Australia have experienced violence by a partner at least once. 

Family violence is also carried out by: 
  • people, including family members, who provide support for people with disabilities 
  • adult children against their elderly parent(s) 
  • young people against their parents 
  • people in same-sex relationships
  • family members against others in their extended family 
  • siblings 

You can find statistics about family violence through Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). 
The signs of family violence are not always physical.

Family violence covers a wide range of behaviours and actions by someone towards a family member. 
The behaviours or actions of someone using family violence can be: 

Physical or sexual. For example, they might:
  • hurt you 
  • break objects or use force to scare you
  • make you afraid to say ‘no’

Emotional, psychological, cultural or spiritual. For example, they might: 
  • put you down and make you feel worthless
  • criticise you, your loved ones, friends or family 
  • criticise or control decisions you make, no matter how small
  • manipulate you 
  • stop you from connecting with your community or culture

Financial. For example, they might:
  • manage or control your money, e.g. by giving you a spending allowance 
  • stop you from working
  • sell your property without your consent
  • take out loans or access credit in your name
  • make it hard for you to live independently by taking away money or other things you need to do this
  • get fines or penalties in your name

Threatening. For example, they might:
  • make you feel afraid
  • threaten to tell others about your visa or immigration status 
  • say they will hurt your family, friends or pets, or harm themselves if you choose to leave or do something they don’t like
  • threaten to tell others about your sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or personal health information
  • tell you that you will lose your children if you don’t do as you are told

Coercive. For example, they might: 
  • make you feel guilty when you see family or friends
  • tell you that you are useless, worthless or not good enough 
  • try to convince you that you’d be lost without them
  • make you doubt your own memory, or interaction you have had with someone
  • make you feel stupid and that you won’t be believed, or tell you that no one will help you if you try to get help

Controlling or dominating. For example, they might:
  • check up to see what you’re doing and where you’re going, or ask you to constantly ‘check in’
  • not trust you and want to access your personal texts, emails or other messages
  • cause you to feel afraid for your own or someone else’s safety 

Family violence affects children even if they’re not physically hurt. 

Even if they don’t directly see or hear the abuse, they know it’s happening and are affected by living in a tense or scary home. 

Growing up with family violence harms children’s health, wellbeing and development even when a parent or carer tries to protect them from it. 

Children may feel frightened or helpless. Some children and young people try to protect their mum or siblings, or they might feel angry and blame them. Some children even think it’s their fault. 

Some children develop physical symptoms such as stomach cramps or headaches or have trouble concentrating at school.
Healthy relationships are based on equality and respect between people. 

People in healthy relationships have occasional arguments. 

People in unhealthy relationships behave in a way that hurts the other person, frightens them or makes them feel unsafe.

If you’re worried that a relationship isn’t healthy, contact services in your area for help and support. 
Family violence is against the law. The main legislation covering family violence in Victoria is the Family Violence Protection Act 2008. It recognises family violence as physical, economic, psychological and sexual, and that it can happen in different kinds of family relationships. 

The Act is designed to: 
  • maximise the safety of adults and children who have experienced family violence 
  • prevent and reduce family violence happening as much as possible
  • increase the accountability of people using violence