What is family violence?

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Examples of family violence

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

In the early stages of a relationship there are a few warning signs or 'red flags' (Safe Steps website) to watch out for that could escalate into family violence.

Who is affected by family violence?

Family violence can happen to anyone. It’s not your fault. We 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 in heterosexual relationships. Family violence also occurs in LGBTIQA+ relationships.
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 
  • adults against their adult children
  • 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). 

How are children affected?

Growing up with family violence harms children’s health, wellbeing and development even when they don’t directly see or hear the abuse.
Children may feel frightened or helpless. Some children and young people try to protect their parent 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.

What is acceptable in a relationship?

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 The Orange Door 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