What does domestic violence look like?

Domestic Violence in Australia

Domestic violence is fairly common in Australia. About 1 in 3 women experience it at some time in their life, and just over 1 woman a week is killed due to intimate partner violence.

If you are currently experiencing domestic violence, you can call the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098 for support.
In an emergency, dial 000.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence happens in a relationship when one person tries to gain power over another person, and then keep them under their control. It is a pattern of behaviour that takes many forms, including physical violence, making threats, putting you down or keeping you away from your loved ones. It usually happens in the home, so the behaviour stays hidden from family and friends.

Some forms of abuse, such as physical violence, are easier to spot than others. Some forms, like emotional, financial or technological abuse, are more difficult to see. However, all forms of abuse are completely unacceptable and an act of disrespect.

Some people think that if their partner doesn’t hit them, it means they aren’t being abused. This is not true. Any behaviour from your partner that intimates you, or controls your behaviour, is a form of abuse.

Who can experience domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be experienced by any person, of any age, any religion and any ethnic or socio-economic background.

Although all individuals can experience a violent relationship, research shows that domestic violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women in heterosexual relationships.

For more information on abuse in same-sex relationships, click here

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts you, but can also happen when someone takes away your control over your body. It does not have to give you bruises, scratches or marks on your body to be a form of physical abuse. Someone saying that they will physically hurt you is still abuse. Physically hurting you is an assault and it is against the law, including if it happens to you within a relationship.

People who are being abusive may tell you that they didn’t mean to hurt you, or that you made them do it. It is important to know that physical abuse is never your fault. Nothing you say or do makes it okay for someone to hurt you.

 For more information on forms of physical violence, click below.

Content warning: information on forms of physical violence

Physical abuse is when someone deliberately hurts you. They may use their body or a weapon to hurt you, or they may cause harm to you in other ways that involve making you lose control over your own body.

 Even if violence is threatened but not acted on, it is still abuse.

Physical abuse may look like:

Hurting you using their body or a weapon

  •     Kicking, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, grabbing, pushing, tripping
  •     Using something dangerous, like a knife, to hurt you or threaten you
  •     Using an object to hurt you e.g. throwing a cup at you
  •     Breaking things or damaging property
  •     Being physically scary or threatening by standing too close, pretending to hit you, making sudden movements, or showing weapons
  •     Throwing things at you or around you
  •     Strangling you (putting pressure on neck with hands, other body parts or cords/ropes/belts)

Hurting you by taking away your control

  •     Tying or locking you up, holding you down, or restraining you in any way
  •     Giving you medicine or drugs to stop you moving or thinking clearly
  •     Giving you medicine, drugs or food to make you feel sick
  •     Forcing you to drink alcohol or take drugs
  •     Stopping you taking medicine you need to feel well
  •     Leaving you exposed or naked when caring for you
  •     Denying you food, water or other physical assistance if you need help with these things.
  •     Destroying or stopping you using equipment you need to move around freely, including a wheelchair or walker

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
Or for more information, visit 1800RESPECT – Physical Abuse

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse involves someone saying things or doing things that make you feel hurt, upset or bad about yourself. Emotional abuse is a way to get control over you.  It may make you feel confused and doubt yourself and your own strengths. It may not hurt your body directly but it is just as serious as physical abuse. It may start gradually and get worse over time. You may feel like you are “walking on eggshells” around the person, and find it hard to predict their mood or their reactions.

Any behaviour that makes you feel bad about yourself, worried for your safety, or feel  controlled, is never okay.

For more information on forms of psychological or emotional abuse, please click below.

Content warning: information on forms of psychological or emotional abuse
  • Threatening to harm you or other people important to you including children and pets
  • Treating you badly and blaming this on you or things important to you – this includes your religion, race, past, disability, gender or family
  • Ignoring you or pretending you aren’t there
  • Giving you “the silent treatment” when you do something they don’t like
  • Blaming you for bad moods or inappropriate behaviour
  • Deliberately having fights or arguments with you to stop you doing something they don’t like
  • Refusing to talk about any issues in the relationship, or blaming issues only on you
  • Behaving badly in public, so you have to make excuses on their behalf
  • Humiliating you, putting you down, saying disrespectful things about you to family and friends
  • Shouting, yelling or calling you names
  • Making nasty jokes about you to others
  • Always correcting what you say to make you look or feel foolish
  • “Negging” or making a backhanded compliment that undermines your confidence
  • Denying they ever said something to you, even if you have proof
  • Telling lies all time so you don’t know what is real
  • Telling you you’re “too sensitive” when you get upset
  • Moving things, hiding things or changing things and then denying that they have done anything
  • Calling you “crazy”, “paranoid” or “hysterical” when you question them
  • Telling you that your memory is bad, or that you haven’t remember something correctly

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.


Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is when you are forced, pressured or tricked into doing sexual things you do not want to do. While sexual abuse can happen outside of a relationship, it can also happen within your relationship and be part of the abuse you experience. It includes anything sexual that makes you uncomfortable or afraid.

For more information on forms of sexual violence and sexual coercion, click below.

Content warning: The following section describes acts of sexual violence and coercion.

Sexual violence includes anything sexual that has happened without your consent, and that has made you feel upset, frightened or uncomfortable.  It may be referred to using other words, such as sexual assault, sexual abuse or rape. It is not always a physical act, and can include people showing you inappropriate pictures or videos, sending you sexual messages, or looking at you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable.

Sexual coercion means when someone pressures you or tricks you into doing sexual things that you do not want to do. It happens with all kinds of people, including someone you are in a relationship with.

It is never okay for someone to force you to do something you do not want to do. You have the right to say what happens to your body, especially when it is sexual.

Examples of sexual abuse

  • Making you have sex or do sexual things that you do not want to do
  • Having sex or doing sexual things to you when you are asleep, drugged or unconscious or confused about what is happening
  • Touching any part of your body in a sexual way when you don’t want them to
  • Putting genitals, fingers or anything else inside you when you don’t want them to
  • Showing you their genitals or “flashing”
  • Threating to hurt or kill you or others if you don’t agree to sexual activities
  • Doing ‘strip searches’ or other invasive/humiliating actions to “prove” cheating
  • Forcing you to do sexual activities in front of others including children
  • Making you feel bad about how you look, your body, your past sexual history or how you perform sexually
  • Making you watch or be in videos or pictures of sex or sexual things
  • Putting sexual photos of you on the internet or showing them to other people without you knowing, or when you don’t want them to
  • Watching you when you undress, are naked, or doing sexual things, without your permission
  • Saying sexual things to you without your consent, either in person or in messages
  • Sending you sexual pictures and videos
  • Stopping you from using contraception or tampering with contraception e.g. Taking a condom off before or during sex without telling you (stealthing)
  • Forcing you to terminate or continue a pregnancy, or preventing you from being able to attend pre/post-natal care
  • Saying they will leave you or have sex with someone else if you don’t agree to have sex
  • Making you feel guilty if you refuse to have sex with them
  • Telling you it’s your job or duty to have sex with them or treating you like a sex object
  • Making you feel afraid of refusing because of what they might do to you or others. This might be through physical violence, but also through them saying bad things about you to others, sharing private or untrue information about you online, or threatening to take away support, money, your medication, children or pets
  • Shouting at you or trying to scare you into having sex
  • Forcing you to do sex work
  • Making you have sex to gain access to things important to you like children, money or leaving the house

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
You can also contact Yarrow Place on 1800 817 421


Social Abuse

Social abuse means any behaviour that cuts you off from friends, family or community. It may involve trying to damage your reputation or to hurt your relationships with others. It includes things done in the home, in public, over the phone, or on the internet/social media. This behaviour might form a pattern, or get worse over time.

No one has the right to control who you see, or to interfere with your relationships or reputation.

For more information on social abuse, click below.

Content warning: The following section describes acts of social abuse
  • Stopping you from seeing your friends, family or other social groups
  • Preventing you or making it difficult for you to leave your house
  • Controlling who you speak to and who you see
  • Needing to know everyone you’ve seen and who you’re planning to see
  • Pressuring you to stop going out to regular social activities, or to skip events or parties
  • Not letting you call, text or message certain people
  • Using social media or the internet to spread lies or damaging information about you
  • Telling lies about you to friends and family, or trying to turn others against you
  • Deliberately doing things to make you either late or completely miss events, appointments or meetings
  • “Making a scene” in public or at an event to force you to leave early
  • Checking or interfering with your messages, phone, email or social media
  • Constantly calling you, leaving messages, texting or instant-messaging you when you’ve gone somewhere without them

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
Or for more information visit 1800RESPECT – Social Abuse

Technology-Facilitated abuse

Technology-facilitated abuse is when someone harasses, threatens, or monitors you via technology or pretends to be someone else while using technology. This can include stalking.

Image-based abuse is part of technology-facilitated abuse. This is when someone shares intimate, nude or sexual images and videos of you on the internet and social media without your consent. This includes real, edited or drawn pictures and videos.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know has experienced image-based abuse, you can report it online here

To learn more about  technology-faciliated abuse, click below.

Content warning: The following section describes acts of technology-facilitated abuse and image-based abuse

Examples of technology-facilitated abuse

  • Constantly calling you, leaving messages, texting or instant-messaging you when you’re out somewhere without them
  • Tracking your location with an app installed on your phone, software on your laptop, or a GPS device.
  • Monitoring your phone calls, messages, social media, texts, applications and emails
  • Using a webcam, phone camera or smart TV to secretly record you
  • Going through your internet history to see which websites you’ve accessed and when
  • Sharing your contact details, including your phone number/address, on social media or other parts of the internet
  • Threatening to send, or sending, intimate photographs of you to family and friends without your consent
  • Uploading intimate photos or videos of you online and sharing them with others, without your knowledge or consent
  • Sending you messages with intimidating, disturbing, pornographic or upsetting content

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is when someone uses money or things that are related to money to hurt, scare or control you. They may also use things you own or share, like houses or bank accounts, to cause problems for you. It can include behaviours such as taking away your pay, running up debts in your name, selling your property without your permission or forcing you to stop working.

No one has the right to force or pressure you into letting them have control over your money and the things you own.

For more information on financial abuse, click below.

Content warning: The following describe acts of financial abuse.

Examples of financial abuse

  • Makes you reliant on them for money
  • Doesn’t let you work or won’t let you keep your wages
  • Takes control of all finances in the home, even money you or your kids have earned, so you have to ask them for money when you need it
  • Reckless spending, gambling, pawning or selling household items
  • Putting all household debts in your name and all assets in their name
  • Withdrawing money from your bank account without your permission
  • Making all decisions about how the household’s money is spent
  • Demanding you explain how you spend your money

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
For more information, visit 1800RESPECT – Financial Abuse


Spiritual or religious abuse

Spiritual or religious abuse is when someone uses spiritual or religious beliefs to hurt, scare or control you. It can involve forcing you or your children to participate in spiritual or religious practices. It can also involve someone making you stop participating in spiritual or religious practices that are important to you.

To learn more about spiritual or religious abuse, click below

Content warning: The following section describes acts of spiritual or religious abuse.

Examples of spiritual or religious abuse

  • Not letting you do spiritual or religious activities, such as attending church or spending time with your community
  • Shaming you or insulting you about your beliefs and values
  • Using religious texts to justify how they treat you
  • Destroying, damaging or taking away spiritual or religious objects that are significant to you
  • Stopping you from returning home to Country

If you read this and feel like you need support, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

For more information, visit 1800RESPECT – Spiritual Abuse