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Domestic and family violence

Domestic violence

Domestic and family violence is a crime. It’s when there is violent, abusive or bullying behaviour or actions towards a partner or former partner to scare and control them. It can happen at home or outside the home. It causes fear and harm to the body, mind and spirit.

Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone. It happens:

  • in every community
  • in all cultures
  • to young and old
  • to wealthy and poor
  • in any profession and level of education.

It’s usually a man who is violent towards the woman he's in a relationship with. But domestic and family violence can be between:

  • married and de facto couples
  • separated or divorced couples
  • former partners and exes
  • boyfriends and girlfriends
  • LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, question) couples
  • carers
  • relatives
  • long-term residents in a residential facility, such as a retirement village
  • extended family or kin in Aboriginal communities.

Family violence

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer to use the term "family violence" when referring to intimate partner abuse. Family violence can also include abuse that occurs in the community between siblings, parents, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

The NSW Government describes 'family' as having "a broader definition and includes people who are related to one another through blood, marriage or de facto partnerships, adoption and fostering relationships, sibling and extended family relationships. It includes the full range of kinship ties in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, extended family relationships, and constructs of family within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ) communities. People living in the same house, people living in the same residential care facility and people reliant on care may also be considered to be in a domestic relationship if their relationship exhibits dynamics which may foster coercive and abusive behaviours."
(from It Stops Here, 2014, p7)

Children and teens

Children and young people are also victims when they have to live with domestic violence, and it can be a form of child abuse.

Elder abuse

Older people are vulnerable to family violence. The abuser is usually a family member, such as an adult child, a spouse or a partner.

Abusive behaviour

Abusive behaviour isn’t just physical violence. It can be any behaviour meant to control, dominate, humiliate or scare the other person. Domestic and family violence can include lots of different types of abuse. A person doesn’t need to experience all of these types of abuse for it to be domestic or family violence.

Some examples of domestic and family violence are:

  • punching, hitting, kicking, pushing, throwing things at a person
  • stalking and harassing
  • sexual assault (forcing sex or sexual acts)
  • making threats, insults, put-downs
  • controlling who they see and what they do
  • controlling money

Domestic violence is also cyclical. It means that there is a cycle of violence, a pattern, that the abuser repeats which stops the victim from leaving the relationship. Read about the cycle of violence.

If you're unsure whether you're experiencing domestic and family violence, call the Domestic Violence Line, it's open 24/7 
1800 65 64 63

If you're in immediate danger, call Emergency Triple Zero 000

Facts about domestic and family violence

  • 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence, or both, perpetrated by someone they know.
  • Of those women who experience violence, more than 50% have children in their care.
  • Domestic and family violence is a factor in about 40% of all murders.
  • At least 1 woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience far higher rates and more severe forms of family violence compared to other women.
  • Domestic and family violence against women is the biggest reason women are homeless. It’s also a common factor in child protection reports.
  • Around Australia, police attend a call-out about domestic and family violence on average once every 2 minutes.


Unreported as a crime

Most domestic and family violence assaults aren’t reported by victims because they:

  • fear more violence
  • feel ashamed
  • think that the violence wasn’t worth reporting to police
  • think they won’t be believed
  • fear their children will never talk to them again or will be taken away
  • fear being left homeless
  • fear losing their residence visa or spousal visa.

More information

You can read more information about domestic and family violence including:

There is help and support for women and children experiencing domestic violence, see:

More information in the Domestic and Family Violence section include:

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019