Family violence


Critical Information

What is family violence?

Family violence is behaviour towards a family member that may include:

  • physical violence or threats of violence
  • verbal abuse, including threats
  • emotional or psychological abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • financial and social abuse.

A child’s exposure to family violence constitutes child abuse. This exposure can be very harmful and may result in long-term physical, psychological and emotional trauma. Action must be taken to protect the child, and to mitigate or limit their trauma.

The longer a child experiences or is exposed to family violence, the more harmful it is. This is why, if you suspect that a child is exposed to, or at risk of being exposed to family violence, it is critical to follow the Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures or Suspicions of Child Abuse  |  Word version

What are the physical indicators of family violence?

PHYSICAL indicators of family violence include (but are not limited to):

  • speech disorders
  • delays in physical development
  • failure to thrive (without an organic cause)
  • bruises, cuts or welts on facial areas, and other parts of the body including back, bottom, legs, arms and inner thighs
  • any bruises or welts (old or new) in unusual configurations, or those that look like the object used to make the injury (such as fingerprints, handprints, buckles, iron or teeth)
  • internal injuries

What are the behavioural indicators of family violence?

BEHAVIOURAL indicators of family violence include (but are not limited to):

  • violent/aggressive behaviour and language
  • depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts
  • appearing nervous and withdrawn, including wariness of adults
  • difficulty adjusting to change
  • psychosomatic illness
  • bedwetting and sleeping disorders
  • 'acting out', such as cruelty to animals
  • extremely demanding, attention-seeking behaviour
  • participating in dangerous risk-taking behaviours to impress peers
  • overly compliant, shy, withdrawn, passive and uncommunicative behaviour
  • taking on a caretaker role prematurely, trying to protect other family members
  • embarrassment about family
  • demonstrated fear of parents, carers or guardians, and of going home
  • disengagement from school and/or poor academic outcomes
  • parent-child conflict

For older children and young people indicators can also include:

  • moving away/running away from home
  • entering into a relationship early to escape the family home
  • experiencing violence in their own dating relationships
  • involvement in criminal activity
  • alcohol and substance abuse

For more information about family violence, see: Department of Human Services - What is family violence?