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.

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 the 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.

  • 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.

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

Coercive Control

Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour someone uses to control you, which takes away your independence, sense of self and space to live the life you want.

To learn more about coercive control, click below


Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour someone uses to control you, which takes away your independence, sense of self and space to live the life you want.

The person being abusive often does this through things that appear trivial or small, if looked at on their own – but when these are combined over time, it causes real harm and results in your rights, freedom and dignity being worn down. Many people who have been subjected to coercive control say that the person’s abusive behaviour got worse over time and they felt trapped in the relationship.

Coercive control can be dangerous and research has shown that someone using coercive control against a partner, is more likely to physically hurt or kill them.

What are the signs of coercive control?

It can be hard to spot the signs of someone using coercive control for a few reasons.

  1. the abusive person makes you think it is your fault or justifies what they are doing. A person using coercive control will make it seem like their own behaviour is normal and reasonable, and that your responses, particularly if you try to stand up for yourself or protect yourself or your kids, are over-the top, irrational, ‘crazy’ and wrong.
  2. People being controlling and abusive often try to hide their behaviour, to make it harder for other people to find out, believe you, and help.
  3. Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour rather than separate events. It is easy to overlook or excuse something as a ‘one off’ act, and harder to spot a pattern made up of lots of different, and often subtle ways, the person is being controlling.

People who have be subjected to coercive control tell us that the tactics the abusive person uses are targeted to who they are and what is important to them. People also tell us that if someone was being controlling towards them whilst they were in a relationship, the behaviour often continued or got worse when they separated.




This could look like…

  • Stopping or making it hard for you to connect with friends, family and your community
  • Turning friends, family or community against you
  • Stopping or making it hard for you to leave the house, either through physical ways (e.g., locking you in the house), not letting you have what you need to leave the house (e.g., access to a car, a pram, money for bus ticket, a mobility aid) or through stand-over tactics (e.g., “I’ll kill you if you step foot outside this house”)
  • Moving interstate away from friends & family or moving you somewhere rural/remote
  • Not letting you do cultural or spiritual activities or attend places of worship or of cultural importance
  • Not letting you speak your language or return to your country (e.g., hiding your passport)
  • Not letting you use technology such as a phone, internet or social media, or monitoring these so you can’t freely communicate and/or find out information.


This could look like…

  • Keeping tabs on what you do, where you are, & who you speak to (e.g., expecting you to report where you are, or to answer messages/calls, or being around you all the time)
  • Watching you and stalking you via technology or other means (e.g., cameras, tracking device, spyware, following you, sitting outside your house)
  • Showing up at your home, workplace/school or other events uninvited
  • Giving unwanted attention and contact via technology, in-person or through other people (harassment)


This could look like…

  • Telling you what to wear, how to run the household, how to parent, & how to manage your money
  • Expecting you to do all the household tasks a certain way and punishing you if you don’t do it right
  • Expecting you to ‘serve’ the other person and be responsible for all their daily needs
  • Micro-managing what you do and how you do it
  • Creating rituals and rules about your personal hygiene, toileting, & eating


This could look like…

  • Emotional withdrawal and absence of kindness
  • Giving you the silent treatment
  • Calling you names, putting you down, mocking you and criticising your ideas/opinions
  • Using racist or derogatory terms to refer to your culture/cultural practices or your community
  • Demanding you give them constant attention and ignore your own needs
  • Not looking after you when you are sick or need care
  • Expecting you do everything around the house and to look after the children all the time
  • Only giving kindness with conditions attached to it
  • Showing no empathy or support
  • Being kind to everyone except you
  • Shaming you
  • Embarrassing you in public or in front of others
  • Not letting you have access to what you need to look and feel good/healthy
  • Comparing you to others
  • Using a ‘standard’ to compare/degrade you (e.g., “a ‘real’ woman looks like this…”)
  • Telling you that no one else would ever want to be in a relationship with you or that you can never meet their needs
  • Making you feel guilty for following your own interests
  • Putting down your strengths and achievements
  • Making you feel bad about who you are (e.g., as a mother; as a sexual partner; as a woman)
  • Putting down your spiritual or cultural beliefs, practices or communities


This could look like…

  • Not doing what was promised
  • Lying and withholding information
  • Cheating
  • Being jealous and accusing you of doing things you didn’t do (e.g., accusing you of cheating)
  • Disappearing without notice
  • Taking advantage of any dependence you may have on the abusive person (e.g., you are financially dependent; they are your sponsor for a VISA; they are your carer) and using this to harm or control you
  • Using knowledge about you to hurt you or pressure you to do something (e.g., “I will tell people about…if you don’t do…”; you are damaged person because you were abused as a child”)
  • Promising to change or get help but not following through with actions
  • Forcing you to do something (e.g., illegal or compromising activities)


This could look like…

  • Doing something harmful or threatening to, as a way to get you do something or stop doing something (e.g., “I won’t let you see the children unless you answer my messages”)
  • Giving reward and punishment in inconsistent ways to create fear and confusion


This could look like…

  • Using ‘caring’ as a guise for control (e.g., “It’s not safe for you to go out alone”; “I will provide for you so you don’t need to work”)
  • Using ‘love’ as a guise for control (e.g., “If you really loved me, you would do this”; “It’s only because I love you and want what’s best for you that I am calling you so much”)
  • Showering you with gifts and ‘attention’ – particularly early on in the relationship or as an apology after abusive behaviour
  • Pressuring for the relationship to progress quickly (e.g., sexual acts, move in together, buy property or share money, get married, have children)


This could look like…

  • ‘Gaslighting’ and behaviour aimed at making you feel ‘crazy’.
  • Changing the ‘goal posts’ so you never meet the standards set by the other person
  • Saying one thing and doing another
  • Manipulating you or others through telling lies or distorting truth
  • Accusing you of doing things but then doing the thing they accuse you of doing
  • Pretending to be you (e.g., taking over your social media; over the phone)


This could look like…

  • Blaming you for things that you have no control or responsibility for
  • Trying to convince you the abuse is not that bad
  • Denying they did/said something as part of ‘gaslighting’
  • Making you seem silly or crazy if you respond or resist the abuse (e.g., “Why are you making a big deal about this?”; “Calm down you are acting crazy”)
  • Blaming you or factors in your life (e.g., experiencing a mental health issue, having a disability) for the abuse or for any life problems they encounter
  • Blaming conditions/situations they experience for the abusive behaviour (e.g., “it’s because I’m under a lot of stress at work…was drunk…have a mental health condition…that I did what I did”)
  • Using racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or other prejudice to abuse or justify abuse
  • Using cultural norms or spiritual teachings or scripture to justify abusive behaviour
  • Blaming you for children’s behaviour or reactions to abuse, or blaming you for their abusive behaviour towards children


This could look like…

  • Threatening or harming other people who are close/important to you
  • Using other people to control, scare or harm you
  • Manipulating the situation so other people don’t believe you or show support for you


This could look like…

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of children
  • Involving children in the abuse (e.g., getting a child to call you names)
  • Abusing or threatening to abuse you in front of children
  • Threatening to harm children if you don’t do what they want you to do
  • Using children to help monitor you or get information about you
  • Abducting or threatening to abduct children or not letting you see your children
  • Changing, or not sticking to agreed parenting plans after separation
  • Undermining parenting decisions you make
  • Making negative comments about you to your children and/or using other tactics aimed at alienating the children from you
  • Using their relationship/contact with a child as a way to make you feel guilty (e.g., “The kids won’t have a father if you leave me”)


This could look like…

  • Not letting you have money, food, accommodation, medication, transport, technology, and other necessities
  • Stopping or making it hard for you to work or study
  • Making you get money or things (e.g., drugs) in ways that goes against your wishes and/or undermines dignity
  • Spending money so you can’t get what’s needed for the family (e.g., gambling the money set aside for grocery shopping)
  • Forcing/tricking/pressuring you to take on debts or make financial decisions
  • Stealing your money/things
  • Destroying your assets or property (e.g., crashing your car, damaging rental property that is under your name)
  • Putting large debts in your name (e.g., property, cars)


This could look like…

  • Using physical stand-over tactics (e.g., blocking doorways, showing weapons, slamming doors, throwing or breaking things)
  • Making threats to kill or harm you, your children, other people or pets/animals
  • Making threats to suicide or harm themselves
  • Using looks, gestures, & words to scare or intimidate
  • Doing things that only you understand to be threatening
  • Threatening to share private information/images about you with others


This could look like…

  • Physically harming you in anyway – even if it doesn’t result in injury
  • Making it hard for you to do things to feel mentally, physically and spiritually well such as visit a doctor or specialist service, take medication, eat well, exercise/have hobbies, & spend time with friends/family/community
  • Putting you in situations that are dangerous (e.g., driving dangerously or drunk, leaving you stranded somewhere, forcing you to do something illegal or interact with other people who are dangerous)
  • Forcing/tricking you to take drugs/medication/substances
  • Taking away or interfering with your medication or other things you need for daily life (e.g., mobility or communication device)
  • Harming pets and animals
  • Harming other people including your children
  • Forcing/pressuring you to do something to your body that is harmful or against your wishes (e.g., get a tattoo that you don’t want; making you walk when you have a leg injury)


This could look like…

  • Forcing or pressuring you into unwanted sexual activity with them or with others (e.g., making you have sex when you don’t want to (rape); forcing you to undertake sex work; making you watch pornography)
  • Violating your body or privacy (e.g., physical inspections to find ‘evidence’ of cheating; spying on you when naked; taking photos/video of you without permission)
  • Preventing, restricting or interfering with choices/access to birth control, & pre/post-natal care
  • Sharing or threatening to share without your permission sexual images of you or information about your sexuality/gender identity/sexual history/STI or HIV status
  • Forcing/pressuring you into sexual practices against your sexuality preferences (e.g., making you have sex with men when you are sexually attracted to women)


This could look like…

Legal system

  • Doing things that result in police identifying you as the abusive person
  • Giving false affidavits & statements to police and courts
  • Making you to do something illegal so you get a criminal record or threatening to expose it or report it
  • Making you go through drawn out court proceedings for separation settlement, children’s arrangements or charges/intervention order

Immigration system

  • Reporting or threatening to report false information to immigration
  • Threatening or withdrawing sponsorship
  • Delaying or refusing to submit documents that impact on your residency
  • Making it hard for you to get information about Australian laws, systems and customs.

Financial systems and support

  • Using loop holes to avoid paying child support
  • Reporting or threatening to report you to Centrelink, which may result in a debt
  • Putting credit cards or other loans/ debts in your name

Child protection system

  • Reporting or threatening to report untrue things about your parenting
  • Presenting as ‘the nice guy/parent’ in public arena’s whilst perpetrating abuse in private

Religious institutions

  • Using religious institutions (or spiritual scripture) to support/justify abusive behaviour

In South Australia, there is currently no specific criminal offense related to coercive control, however some behaviours a person uses to be controlling are against the law. These include physical assault, sexual assault, stalking and threats to kill.

You can always call the police on 000 if you feel frightened or scared.

Another legal option available to address coercive control is applying for an Intervention Order. You can read more about Intervention orders here.

Specialist legal services providing support to women affected by domestic and family violence can also provide information and support, these include:

Legal Services Commission, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service and Women’s Legal Service


It is normal and common to feel confused and worried if someone is being abusive and controlling towards you. You will have found ways to get through the situation and protect yourself and others from harm, despite all the attempts the person being abusive will try to make to stop or restrict your responses.

In South Australia we have a 24-hour telephone service called the Domestic Violence Crisis Line. Call 1800 800 098 to speak to someone about your relationship or get help. The service is confidential and you can remain anonymous. We understand that reaching out for help can be hard but we are here to listen and support you.

If you call us, you can expect that we will:

  • Listen and believe you
  • Not judge you or pressure you share information if you don’t feel ready or safe to do so
  • Understand that your life is complicated and that you are doing the best you can to protect yourself and your family
  • Understand that relationships come in all forms and that abuse can happen in any community
  • Explain options and resources available
  • Respect your right to make your own decisions about what is best for you and your family
  • Connect you with a safe telephone interpreter if you need one

Support can also be provided by contacting 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), www.1800respect.org.au 

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.

  • 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.

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.

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

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