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What does domestic violence look like?

Domestic violence is not limited to physical violence. It also includes verbal, sexual, economic, social, emotional and psychological abuse. While physical violence is the most easily recognisable, other forms of abuse can be more difficult to identify, especially emotional/psychological abuse, social abuse, spiritual and economic abuse.

Physical violence
  • Punching, beating, kicking, hair pulling, smothering, pushing, shaking, slapping or strangling the woman or holding her against her will.
  • Damaging property, throwing or breaking objects, particularly those which have sentimental value to her.
  • Harming pets.
Verbal abuse
  • Humiliating the woman and eroding her confidence.
  • Putting her down, threatening, yelling, shouting at her or calling her names.
  • Telling her that she is useless and worthless.
Sexual abuse
  • Rape, demanding sex or forcing the woman to have sex against her will.  May include the use of objects.
  • Treating her as a sex slave and/or sex object.
  • Forcing her to have sex in various positions.
  • Physically attacking the sexual parts of her body.
Social abuse
  • Isolates the woman and prevents her from having a life outside the relationship.
  • Includes isolating her from her family, friends and interest groups; controlling who she speaks to or who she will see and when; or forcing her to stay at home.
  • May include continually calling her on the phone to see what she is up to, checking her mail, mobile phone, emails or Skype account.
  • May include criticising her family and friends.
Spiritual abuse
  • Includes not allowing the woman to fulfil her spiritual and/or religious commitments and making putdowns regarding her beliefs and values.
  • The abuser may literally interpret religious texts, using words like ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’ to control her.
Emotional and psychological abuse
  • Starts slowly, on a small scale and gradually escalates.
  • Includes subjecting the woman mind games, as well as unpredictable and irrational behavior.
  • Includes humiliating the woman, continually putting her down regarding her physical appearance or how good she is as a mother, so that she feels guilty about her children.
  • May intimidate her with looks, gestures or a loud voice, possibly humiliating her in front of her friends and family.
  • The abuser may behave in inconsistent, irrational and unpredictable ways, and may blame her for his moods and behaviour.
  • May be dishonest, break promises and only give conditional affection.
  • The abuser may use silence as a weapon and refuse to talk through any issues.
  • May threaten to harm them, other family members or pets, or he may threaten to harm himself.
Economic abuse
  • Makes the woman (and children) reliant on the abuser for money and, therefore, survival.
  • Includes not allowing her to work, or taking her wages from her, and controlling the finances within the home, so that she must ask for money.
  • The abuser may make all the big decisions about how the money will be spent and demand that she account for all money she has spent.
  • May include gambling and selling or pawning household items which belong to the woman and the children to pay accumulated debts.
  • Sometimes the abuser puts all the debts into her name and keeps all their assets in his own name.




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Important Note

Please note that the Women’s Safety Services SA contact email is only supervised between 9AM-5PM, Monday to Friday, and you will not receive a response outside these times.

If you are in urgent need of assistance or are concerned for your safety, please call 000 or call our Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098 or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

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