What is domestic violence

Domestic violence is one of the most widespread human rights abuses in Australia and globally.

Whatever form the violence takes, it has serious and often devastating consequences for victims, their extended families and the community. Domestic violence puts more women aged 15-44 at risk of ill-health and premature death than any other risk factor. (White Ribbon). Domestic violence is the biggest single cause of homelessness among women and children (NSW Women’s Refuge Movement Inc. Response to the future directions of specialist homelessness services consultation paper).

It also comes at an enormous economic cost. Each year violence against women costs the nation $13.6 billion. This figure is expected to rise to $15.6 billion by 2021 (National plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010 – 2022).

For a very long time domestic violence was seen as a private matter. The feminist movement in the 1970s supported women to speak out strongly against domestic violence and agitate for services such as women’s refuges.

Progress in eliminating violence against women has been slow and the legal and public policy environment has struggled to keep pace with the need for change.

Domestic violence is about power and control. Research shows that the vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women and children (Domestic and family violence studies, surveys and statistics: pointers to policy and practice). In a small number of cases, domestic violence is perpetrated by women against men and children. Domestic violence also occurs in same-sex relationships. Domestic violence is also termed ‘family violence’ or ‘intimate partner violence/abuse’.

Domestic violence encompasses a range of behaviours and can include but is not limited to some of the following tactics:

  • intimidation– including threats to injure or kill a victim and/or their children and relatives, injuring or killing pets, damaging personal property, throwing objects, making repeated telephone calls and misuse of social media
  • harassment– including making repeated telephone calls, repeated hang-ups, sending repeated SMS text messages, emails, letters or gifts
  • emotional and psychological abuse– including name-calling, swearing, put-downs, and threats of suicide or self-harm
  • financial abuse– including controlling access to finances and depriving a victim of access to funds for basic needs for themselves and the family, such as food, clothes, school items and transport. Can also include questioning the victim on money spent, asking for receipts or making allegations that the victim is either incapable of managing money or accusing the victim of spending on unnecessary items
  • stalking – including following a victim to their home, or place of work; or places they often attend, for example, shopping centres, clubs, or fitness centres, childcare centres or schools the victim’s children attend
  • social and geographical isolation– including preventing a victim from seeing or contacting family and friends, restricting their ability to leave the home, using public transport or a car, using the telephone or the internet, isolation may be geographical – where the perpetrator coerces the victim to move somewhere they are unable to leave easily without the perpetrator’s help and consent
  • physical assaults – including punching, hitting, slapping, shoving and strangling or attempts to do anything like this
  • sexual assault– including sexual intercourse or other sexual acts without a victim’s consent.


Case study

Clara and James are in year 11 at high school. Recently James has started to get very jealous of Clara anytime she tries to talk with any of her friends and is starting to yell at her and has even grabbed her a few times in anger. James and Clara have been sexting each other during their relationship and James threatens Clara that if she continues to talk with friends other than him, he will post a nude photo of her on Facebook to humiliate her. Clara is so scared of this she stops talking with all her friends.