Family violence (also called domestic violence) is not only physical abuse, it can also be:
- spiritual and cultural abuse.
All forms of family violence are unacceptable and many are illegal. If you’re affected by family violence, help and support are available.
How family violence can occur
Family violence can occur in all kinds of families and in family relationships including intimate partners or ex -partners, parents or siblings. While anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of family violence, it is most likely to be committed by men against women, children (and other vulnerable people).
In some relationships, pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby is a known risk factor for family violence to begin, or to worsen. Family violence can involve overt or subtle exploitation of power imbalances and may consist of isolated incidents or patterns of abuse over a period of time.
Research shows that during pregnancy and when families have very young babies:
- there is an increased risk of family violence
- pre-existing family violence may increase in severity
- it’s sometimes harder to leave due to increased dependence on the person perpetrating the violence.
Family violence is behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person that:
- is physically or sexually abusive
- is emotionally or psychologically abusive
- is economically abusive
- is threatening
- is coercive
- in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person.
It also includes behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of behaviour referred to in these ways.
Witnessing or being caught up in family violence is harmful to your child’s development. It can affect children physically and emotionally and can result in behavioural, mental health or educational problems.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected. If you have any concerns about your own or your baby’s or child’s safety, help and support is available:
- Speak to your Maternal and Child Health nurse or family doctor.
- Call a telephone family support service like the
Maternal and Child Health Line or
- Call a 24 hour family violence line for information and support like
Safe Steps .
- Speak to a trusted family member or friend for support.
If you or your children are in immediate danger, call the police on 000.
It’s important you get advice from people who can support you to stay safe and make decisions that work for you and your children. The Safe Steps website has information, resources and support specifically aimed at helping women and children as well as other people and roles affected by family violence.
Online and mobile phone safety
If you are concerned about violence in your family, remember to keep yourself safe while you find out more about what you can do about it. Some people will use online and tracking technology to find out what you’ve been reading, who you’ve called and where you’ve been going.
Online searching: try to use a computer which a person perpetrating family violence doesn’t have access to – for example, a library computer or at a trusted family member’s house. Take care that location tracking is turned off on your mobile phone/smartphone as well as your social media accounts, and try to use a browser for search that does not show your search history (for example, Google Chrome using incognito browsing).