What is Family Violence?

Types of Family Violence

Many people identify family violence as physical or sexual abuse, however it can also take the form of emotional or psychological abuse and financial control. Family violence can be subtle and have a gradual impact over time by isolating you from family and friends, controlling your movements and behaviour or harming people or things you love. Read the Safe Steps Family Violence Checklist to see the different sorts of behaviour that are classified as family violence.

Everyone has the right to be safe and free from abuse.

Legal Definition of Family Violence

Family Violence is very clearly defined in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008.  It is worth reading and understanding the legal definition.

Gender and Family Violence

Although violence can occur in any kind of relationship, we recognise the disproportionate rate of violence used by some men as a form of power and control over women and children and that this violence perpetuates gender inequality. There are many resources to learn more about gender and family violence. A good starting point is A Right to Respect: Victoria's Plan to Prevent Violence against Women 2010-2020 and Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families: Towards a Safer Future for Indigenous Families and Communities (10 Year Plan)

Myths and Misunderstandings

There are many commonly held misconceptions in our society and projected in the media that family violence is caused by:

  • abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • unemployment
  • financial stress
  • family background
  • mental illness
  • provocation
  • culture

Sometimes it might seem as though these and other factors play a role in a particular instance of family violence, however none of these factors actually cause violence and there is no excuse for it.

Many people are dealing with stress and don't use violence against others, particularly their partners or family members. Using violence is a choice made by the individual to have power over and control another person.  For more information about family violence myths, check out this fact sheet from the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

Some statistics

Research from the 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey and Australian Institute of Criminology indicates that family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly committed by men against women. The research reveals that, from the age of 15:

  • 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical abuse from a current or former partner
  • 1 in 5 have experienced sexual violence
  • 1 in 4 have experienced emotional abuse
  • 1 in 6 have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner
  • 36% of women experienced physical or sexual violence from someone they know
  • 15% of women experienced physical or sexual violence from an ex-partner
  • 62% of women experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator

Australian women are most likely to experience physical and sexual violence in their home at the hands of a male current or ex-partner. Of women who had experienced violence from an ex-partner:

  • 73% experienced more than one incident of violence
  • 61% had children in their care whilst the violence occurred
  • 58% of women had never contacted police
  • 24% had never sought support

Some other statistics:

  • One in three women experience some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime (FaHCSIA, 2009)
  • In any given year, some 70,000 Australian women experience domestic violence (ABS, 2006)
  • Domestic violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in women aged 15-44 (Vic Health, 2004)
  • Domestic violence will cost Australians $15.6 billion per year by 2021 if appropriate action to prevent it is not taken now (KPMG, 2009)

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