Domestic violence takes many forms and it is not always obvious to recognise when you are in an abusive relationship.
Does your partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, carer, or family member:
- Make you feel uncomfortable or afraid?
- Often put you down, humiliate you or call you worthless?
- Constantly check up on where you are and who you’re with?
- Stop you from seeing your friends and family?
- Make you feel scared if you say “no” to them?
- Tell you how to spend your money or stop you having your own money?
- Stop you from getting medical help?
- Make you scared by damaging property?
- Threaten suicide to make you do what they want?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, then that is a sign you are in a toxic or abusive relationship.
We recommend you call 1800 246 642 to get free advice.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic and family violence takes many forms and is not limited to just physical or sexual abuse. Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone, in any socioeconomic, culturally diverse or linguistically diverse background.
Below are some examples of behaviours considered to be domestic or family violence.
Emotional and Psychological abuse
Emotional and psychological harm includes behaviour that causes distress, anxiety, fear, mental illness or nervous shock. There are many behaviours that can lead to a person experiencing emotional or psychological harm which include:
- Threatening to harm a person, their children or their pets;
- Using mind games to make a person think they are crazy (commonly referred to as gaslighting);
- Following a person, including using technology to keep track of their location;
- Making continuous degrading comments and calling a person names to make a person feel worthless. For example, attacking their intelligence, sexuality, race, ethnicity and body image;
- Continuous yelling and swearing at a person to make them scared;
- Sending or publishing offensive or intimate images to others or on the internet;
- Threatening to send or publish intimate images to others or on the internet;
- Continuous contact by phone, sms or other electronic means despite being told to stop contact;
- Threatening suicide to control a person;
- Driving in a dangerous way to scare a person
- Withholding medical treatment or assistance;
- Threatening to admit a person to a mental health facility;
- Forced marriage;
- Taking an intimate image without the person’s consent.
- Going through personal information such as email accounts, social media accounts, and text messages;
- Using spyware or GPS services to track a person’s movements;
- Using video surveillance or drones to record a person without permission;
- Exposing a child to any of the above behaviour
- Coercing a person to terminate a pregnancy
- Coercing a person not to terminate a pregnancy
Other forms of domestic and family violence can be used or result in emotional and psychological harm.
Physical abuse is often the most visible form of domestic and family violence and includes the following behaviours:
- Hitting, punching, shoving, biting, spitting, choking, suffocating a person;
- Using weapons on a person, such as knives, guns, or other objects to cause physical pain;
- Withholding food or medicine;
- Preventing a person from sleeping;
- Forcing a person to take drugs
Sexual abuse was previously not considered possible in marriages, however, society and the law have now recognised that sexual abuse can happen in romantic relationships. Sexual abuse can include the following behaviours:
- Touching a person in a sexual manner without consent;
- Kissing a person without consent;
- Having sex with someone without consent;
- Forcing or pressuring someone to have sex when they do not want to
Financial abuse is often used to control a person’s access to money making them reliant on their partner or family member. This makes it hard to leave an abusive situation. Financial abuse can include the following behaviours:
- Not allowing a person to have their own bank account;
- Not providing financial support needed for reasonable living. For example, providing a set amount for all weekly bills and food;
- Preventing a person from accessing a joint bank account for normal household expenses;
- Stopping someone from getting a job to obtain their own money;
- Forcing someone to sign an power of attorney allowing the abuser to access their finances;
- Forcing someone to sign a contract to buy property;
- Forcing someone to sign a bank guarantee;
- Taking a person’s Centrelink payments;
- Dowry abuse, including a man or his family threatening a wife or her family for money
Spiritual & Cultural Abuse
Spiritual abuse can have serious effects on a person’s mental health and their self-identity. Spiritual abuse can include the following behaviours:
- Preventing a person from practicing their religion, faith or culture;
- Forcing a person to do things against their religion or faith;
- Forcing a person to join a religion;
- Criticising a person’s religion, or cultural background;
- Speaking badly or making up rumours in a person’s religious community;
- Justifying violence or abusive behaviour on the grounds of religious or cultural practices.
Property damage is used to make a person scared and can include the following behaviours:
- Taking, damaging or destroying property;
- Damaging the home. For example, punching walls, breaking windows and kicking doors;
- Damaging a person’s phone, preventing them calling for help;
- Damaging or interfering with a person’s car. For example, letting down the tyres, breaking windows or installing tracking devices.
Social abuse is often used to isolate and make it difficult to leave a domestic or family violence situation and includes the following behaviours: