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Domestic and family violence includes different types of abuse. A person doesn’t need to experience all of these types of abuse for it to be a crime under the law. The abuse can include:

  • verbal abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • financial abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • harassment and stalking
  • spiritual or religious abuse
  • reproductive abuse
  • image-based abuse

Verbal abuse

  • swearing and continual humiliation, in private or in public
  • attacks on intelligence, sexuality, body image and capacity as a parent and spouse
  • ridiculing religious beliefs or ethnic background
  • screaming, shouting, name-calling, put-downs

Physical abuse

  • direct assault on the body (choking, strangulation, shaking, eye injuries, biting, slapping, pushing, spitting, burning, punching, kicking, pulling hair)
  • use of weapons including objects
  • hurting the children
  • locking the victim in or out of the house or rooms
  • forcing the victim to take drugs
  • not allowing medication, food or medical care
  • not allowing sleep

Psychological abuse

  • creating fear, such as driving dangerously, possessing weapons, angry looks
  • destroying  property or valued possessions
  • hurting or killing pets in front of family members
  • making threats regarding custody of any children
  • saying that the police and the courts will not help, support or believe the victim
  • threatening to ‘out’ the person

Emotional abuse

  • blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship
  • constantly comparing the victim with others to undermine their self-esteem and self-worth
  • sporadic sulking
  • withdrawing all interest and engagement (for example, weeks of silent treatment)
  • emotional blackmail and suicidal threats

Social abuse

  • isolation from family and friends such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends to alienate them, or limiting contact with family and friends
  • instigating and controlling the move to a location where the victim has no established social circle or work opportunities
  • restricting use of the car or telephone
  • forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people

Financial abuse

  • forbidding access to bank accounts
  • providing only a small ‘allowance’
  • not allowing the victim to work or have a job
  • forcing the victim to sign documents or make false declarations
  • using all the wages earned by the victim for household expenses
  • controlling the victim’s pension
  • denying that the victim is entitled to joint property

Sexual abuse

  • any form of pressured or unwanted sex or sexual degradation causing pain during sex
  • assaulting genitals (hurting your private parts)
  • forced sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease
  • making the victim perform sexual acts unwillingly (including taking or distributing explicit photos without their consent)
  • criticising or using sexually degrading insults

Harassment and stalking

  • following and watching
  • telephone and online harassment
  • tracking with Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
  • being intimidating
  • coming into your own place without permission

Spiritual or religious abuse

  • using spiritual or religious beliefs to scare, hurt or control you
  • stopping you or shaming you for practising your spiritual or religious beliefs
  • forcing you or your children to take part in spiritual or religious practices when you don't want to
  • forcing you to raise your children according to spiritual or religious beliefs you don't agree with
  • using religious or spiritual leaders or teachings to force you to stay in the relationship or marriage, as an excuse for their violent and abusive behaviour, stop you or your children from getting medical or health care, force you into a marriage you don't want

Reproductive abuse

  • forcing or pressuring you to have unprotected sex, become pregnant or have an abortion
  • passing on a sexually transmitted infection they know they have
  • doing things to stop your birth control, such as throwing them away, hiding them, stopping you from buying them
  • preventing or limiting your access to sexual health services and information
  • forcing you to have operations to remove parts of your genitals

Imaged-based abuse

  • also known as "revenge porn", it's when a nude or sexual image of you is taken and shared without your permission
  • sharing or threatening to share intimate, nude or sexual photos or videos of you to friends, family, strangers in person, on the internet, on social media sites, or through a text message or app
  • accessing personal computer files to steal images
  • Photoshopping a person's image onto a sexually explicit photo or video
  • taking images of a woman's cleavage or under her skirt
  • secretly filming sexual activity or sexual assault

Violent versus nonviolent behaviour

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs listened to many women who survived domestic and family violence and documented their stories. They found women experienced some common abusive behaviours. The most common behaviours and tactics are noted in the Power and Control Wheel.

Below are 2 lists. The first one shows the violent actions used by perpetrators of domestic and family violence to gain power and control over their victim.  These videos explain each of the tactics. The second list shows the nonviolent behaviours of a healthy relationship where the aim is equality.

Violent actions: power and control

Using coercion and threats

  • making or carrying out threats, or both, to hurt your partner
  • threatening to leave your partner, to commit suicide or report her to Centrelink or for child abuse
  • making your partner drop criminal charges against you
  • making your partner do illegal things

Using intimidation

  • making your partner afraid through actions, gestures or looks
  • smashing things
  • destroying your partner’s property
  • abusing pets
  • displaying weapons

Using emotional abuse

  • putting down your partner
  • making your partner feel bad about themselves
  • calling your partner names
  • making your partner think she’s crazy
  • playing mind games
  • humiliating your partner
  • making your partner feel guilty

Using isolation

  • controlling what your partner does, who they see and talk to, what they read, where they go
  • limiting your partner’s involvement in any activities outside the home
  • using jealousy to justify actions

Minimising, denying and blaming

  • making light of the abuse and not taking your partner’s concerns about it seriously
  • saying the abuse didn't happen
  • shifting responsibility for abusive behaviour
  • saying your partner caused it

Using children

  • making a partner or ex-partner feel guilty about her children
  • using the children to relay messages
  • using visitation to harass your partner
  • threatening to take the children away

Using male privilege

  • treating her like a servant
  • making all the big decisions
  • acting like the king of the castle
  • being the one to define men’s and women’s roles

Using economic abuse

  • preventing her from getting or keeping a job
  • making her ask for money
  • giving her an allowance
  • taking her money
  • not letting her know about, or have access to, family income

Non-violent actions: equality


  • listening to your partner non-judgmentally
  • being emotionally affirming and understanding
  • valuing opinions

Non-threatening behaviour

  • talking and acting so that your partner feels safe and comfortable expressing herself and doing things

Trust and support

  • supporting your partner’s goals in life
  • respecting your partner’s rights to her own feelings, friends, activities and opinions

Honesty and accountability

  • accepting responsibility for self
  • acknowledging past use of violence
  • admitting being wrong, communicating openly and truthfully

Negotiation and fairness

  • seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict
  • accepting change
  • being willing to compromise

Responsible parenting

  • sharing parental responsibilities
  • being a positive non-violent role model for the children

Share responsibility

  • mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work
  • making family decisions together

Economic partnership

  • making money decisions together
  • making sure both partners benefit from financial arrangements

(Source: Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth Minnesota,

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019