What is Family Violence? 2018-07-31T07:48:24+00:00

What is
Family Violence?


What is Family Violence?

Legal Definition (Family Violence Protection Act 2008)
Family violence is any behaviour that in any way controls or dominates a family member that causes them to fear for their own, or other family member’s safety or well being. It can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or economic abuse and any behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness or otherwise be exposed to the effects of that behaviour.

Family Violence includes:

  • behaviour that is repeated, controlling, threatening and manipulative.
  • occurs between people who have had or are having an intimate relationship or in a family situation.
  • is used by the perpetrator to have power and control over the victim.

Family Violence has no age boundaries. 

Family violence is a crime and is unacceptable.

It is not the fault of the victim.

The perpetrator chooses to behave in this manner.

Forms of Violence Against Women

  • Physical hitting, slapping, choking, stabbing, murder, murder–suicide…
  • Sexual rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual abuse…
  • Emotional and verbal put downs, insults, deliberately undermining confidence, humiliating, degrading, threats of violence or punishment, manipulation…
  • Social controlling and isolating, smothering, abusing in public…
  • Economic controlling/denying money…
  • Spiritual eroding a women’s culture or religious beliefs…
  • Stalking Loitering around the victim, watching, following, persistent unwanted contact (via telephone, mail, unwanted love letters, cards and gifts)

(VicHealth – Preventing Violence against Women – Short Course 2013)


Facts and Figures

Family Violence occurs in all socio-economic groups and cultures. In Victoria approximately 80% of victims were women and children and 20% were male. (Victorian Community Council Against Violence (2006) Victorian Family Violence Database, Five year report).

It is important to remember that Family Violence is:

  • A fundamental violation of a person’s human rights
  • Can include criminal Behaviour
  • Is unacceptable in any community

Support Services contacts

Gippsland Women’s Health does not provide a direct service to people experiencing family violence.

If you are in a violent situation, know someone who is experiencing violence, or know someone who is using violence, please refer to the key contacts listed Family Violence Support Services here.

Indicators of Family Violence

The indicators of family violence are not always obvious. Care must also be taken not to jump to conclusions, because some of the indicators may be attributable to other causes. However if there is a pattern or history of these indicators, there may be a history of abuse.


  • Physical injury including bruising (especially to chest, breasts, abdomen, and genitals), broken bones, burn marks.
  • Abused women are more likely to experience chronic pain.
  • Greater risk of suicide attempts.
  • High risk of substance (alcohol and drug) abuse.
  • Depression, panic phobia, anxiety, sleeping disorders, emotional problems.
  • Higher rates of miscarriage (pregnancy is often a time when family violence begins or is exacerbated).
  • Frequent diagnoses of vague complaints and use of minor tranquillizers and pain killers.
  • High stress levels.
  • Fewer coping and problem solving skills.
  • Social isolation, (including from family support).


  • Low birth weight for gestational age.
  • Physical injuries, bruising, burns, injuries to genitals (particularly with implausible explanations).
  • Prone to adjustment problems.
  • Depression.
  • Low self esteem.
  • Nervous and withdrawn demeanour.
  • Headaches, abdominal complaints, asthma, peptic ulcers, stuttering.
  • Bedwetting.
  • Restlessness.
  • Excessive cruelty to animals.
  • Mimicking aggressive language and behaviour in their play.
  • Decreased interpersonal sensitivity that is a reduction in ability to understand social situations, including thoughts and feelings of people involved.
  • Lower social competency, particularly boys.
  • Adjustment problems.
  • Accident problems.
  • Malnutrition.

Young people

  • Physical injuries, bruising, burns, injuries to genitals (particularly with implausible explanations).
  • School absenteeism.
  • Self harming i.e. slashing, cutting.
  • Drug use i.e. chroming, alcohol etc.
  • Suicidal ideation and behaviour.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Hyper-vigilance or exaggerated startle response.
  • Arrive early and /or stay late at school.
  • Lack of enthusiasm or concentration.
  • Depression, anxiety.
  • Low self esteem.
  • Nervous or withdrawn demeanour.
  • Health complaints, such as headaches, abdominal problems, asthma, stuttering.
  • Aggressive or violent behaviour.
  • Addictive behaviour, e.g. over zealous sporting activities.
  • Firelighting.
  • Abuse of animals.
  • Absconding behaviour.
  • Social changes in school or work performance.
  • Difficulties with trust in adults, emotional attachments and maintaining relationships.

(from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria training booklet, “Young People and Domestic Violence” – August 2006) 

Planning a Safe Exit

Need Urgent Help?  Phone 000

Your safety (and your children’s) is a priority. Do you feel safe at home at the moment?

If you are considering leaving a violent situation and have time to plan your exit please consider these things:

  • Documentation – can you hide or store documents such as such as Medicare cards, pension, bank details, marriage/birth certificate, passports, and drivers licence.
  • If there is an intervention order or other legal papers, keep them with you.
  • If possible, save money for transport or other costs.
  • Clothing – keep a set for you and dependants/children in a bag in case there is a need to leave quickly.
  • Have any spare medication easily available.
  • If there are children, include some children’s toys in the emergency packed bag.
  • Carry a list of telephone numbers to call in an emergency.
  • Keep a spare set of house/car keys in a safe place.
  • Keep a mobile phone for emergency use.
  • Talk to the children about the situation. They will probably be aware of what is going on. If appropriate, discuss the escape plan. If possible, take children/dependants with you as it can be difficult to gain access to them otherwise at a later date.
  • If possible leave when the abuser is not around to ensure your safety.
  • Support may be accessed from the police or other agency to return home to get other belongings later.

(with thanks to Barwon South West Region Integrated Family Violence Project)

Technology Safety Planning

Although technologies such as the internet, email and mobile phones have provided benefits for victims of family violence, they have also opened up new avenues for abuse.

Trust your instincts

If you suspect the abusive person knows too much, it is possible that your phone, computer, email, car use or other activities are being monitored. Abusers and stalkers can act in incredibly persistent and creative ways to maintain power and control.

Plan for safety

Dealing with violence, abuse, and stalking is very difficult and dangerous. Domestic violence services and police can discuss options and help you in your safety planning.

Use a safer computer

If anyone who is abusive has access to your computer, he/she might be monitoring your computer activities. ‘Spyware’ and ‘keylogging’ programs are commonly available and can track what you do on your computer without you knowing it. It is not possible to delete or clear all of the ‘tracks’ of your online or computer activities. Try to use a safer computer when you look for help, a new place to live, etc. It may be safest to use a computer at a public library, community centre, or Internet cafe.

Create a new email, Facebook or instant messaging account

If you suspect that anyone abusive can access your email, consider creating an additional email account on a safer computer. Do not create or check this new email from a computer your abuser could access, in case it is monitored. Use an anonymous name, and account: (example: bluecat@email.com – not YourRealName@email.com). Look for free web-based email accounts (like yahoo or hotmail), and do not provide detailed information about yourself.

Check your mobile phone settings

If you are using a mobile phone provided by the abusive person, consider turning it off when not in use. Also many phones let you to ‘lock’ the keys so a phone won’t automatically answer or call if it is bumped. When on, check the phone settings; if your phone has an optional location service, you may want to switch the location feature off/on via the phone settings menu or by turning your phone on and off.

For How-to videos follow the link to the smartsafe website

Change passwords and pin numbers

Some abusers use a victim’s email and other accounts to impersonate and cause harm. If anyone abusive knows or could guess your passwords, change them quickly and frequently. Think about changing the passwords for any password protected accounts – online banking, voicemail, etc. Use a safer computer to access your accounts.

Minimize use of cordless phones or baby monitors

If you don’t want others to overhear your conversations, turn baby monitors off when not in use and use a traditional corded phone for sensitive conversations.

Get your own mobile phone

When making or receiving private calls or arranging escape plans, try not to use a shared or family mobile phone because the mobile phone bill and the phone log might reveal your plans to an abuser. Consider using a prepaid phone card so that you won’t get numbers listed on your bill.

Ask about your records and data

Ask government agencies about their privacy policies regarding how they protect or publish your records. Request that courts, government, post offices and others restrict access to your files to protect your safety.

Get a private postbox and don’t give out your real address

When asked by businesses, doctors, and others for your address, have a private post office box address or a safer address to give them.

Google yourself

See if your private contact information is can be found online. Go to Google and do a search for your name in quotation marks: “Full Name”

Save evidence and consider reporting abuse or stalking

Messages left via texts/answering machines can be saved as evidence of stalking or abuse. Keep a record of all suspicious incidents. You can report abuse, violence, threats, stalking or cyber-stalking to police and the abuser can be charged with a criminal offence, or police can assist with applying for an Intervention Order. Cyberstalking is illegal in Victoria.

Legal intervention for cyberstalking

In 2003, Victoria was the first state to amend its Crimes Act to add ‘cyber-stalking’. The definition of the crime of stalking now includes stalking a person on the internet or via email, impersonating another person in cyberspace, posting false information about them on the web and publishing offensive material electronically.

Related links

Stalking has practical advice for victims of stalking, like suggestions for to collect evidence and best use police support to pursue criminal charges. It’s made by the Victims Support Agency of the Victorian Department of Justice.

Cyberstalking and harassment

Using the Internet Safely by Women’s Health West


The information above was adapted from Technology Safety Planning with Survivors: Tips to discuss if someone you know is in danger (2005), by the Safety Net: National Safe & Strategic Technology Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (USA). It was adapted by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria with permission from the Safety Net Project.  Our thanks to DVRCV for allowing us access to this information.

For further information see www.dvrcv.org.au

Take the Family Violence Quiz

Answer: d. Gender

Generally a male dominated area. Women are generally the victims. About 80% of all cases of Family Violence are about power and control where women are the victims and men are the perpetrators.

Answer: c. When she attempts to leave.

One of the times when a woman is at her highest risk more likely to be harmed or even murdered when she is planning to leave or in the first few months of actually having left.

Partner violence is strongly associated with early pregnancy. Women with a history of previous partner violence were almost three times as likely to miscarry and 2.5 times to have a pre-term baby.

Answer: c. $1.8 billion

A report by Access Economics estimated that the total cost of domestic Violence in 2002 – 03 was $1.8 billion. This estimate includes the cost of pain and suffering, health costs and long – term productivity costs. Source: Access Economics (2004) The Cost of Domestic violence to the Australian Economy, Office of the Status of Women, Commonwealth of Australia.

Get Help

Gippsland Women’s Health does not provide a direct service to people experiencing family violence.

If you are in a violent situation, know someone who is experiencing violence, or know someone who is using violence, please refer to the key contacts listed below.

In an emergency – call Police on 000

For Contacts and Support Services

Stop Family Violence Card/Poster

Stop Family Violence Cards and A3 Posters provide a full list of Gippsland and Statewide Family Violence Support Services.

The cards and posters are designed to be displayed in public places to raise awareness of Family Violence and list support services available.


Order hard copy Family Violence Cards and Posters



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Gippsland Women’s Health is NOT a crisis centre. If you are in a violent situation, know someone who is experiencing violence, or know someone who is using violence, please refer to the key contacts listed here.

If you are in crisis please contact:

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