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Family and domestic violence

Mother comforting child

Violence is defined as any act which makes another person feel fearful, unsafe and not in control of their own destiny.

Family violence is not one particular experience and may include a number of different forms of abuse, control and/or violence.

Family violence describes those forms of abuse undertaken by someone within your family circle, most often the person using abuse is a current intimate partner or ex-partner.

For example, a partner or relative may:

  • stop you from seeing your family and friends
  • constantly check up on what you’re doing
  • put you down and tell you it’s all your fault
  • control family finances
  • humiliate you and/or your children by being verbally abusive
  • scare or hurt you/and or your children by being physically violent
  • threaten to hurt you and/or your children
  • sexually abuse you and/or your children.

People who use violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual (LGBTIQA+) people can use the same tactics to gain power and control. There are unique ways violence can be perpetrated towards LGBTIQA+ people, for more information on types of abuse in LGBTIQA+ relationships and specialist services responses see here.

Family and domestic violence occurs in all ethnic and cultural groups, in all kinds of relationships and families, including heterosexual and same-sex relationships and against older people and people with a disability.

Types of family and domestic violence

There are many types of family and domestic violence:

  • intimate partner violence
  • child abuse
  • elder abuse
  • carer abuse
  • parental abuse
  • sibling abuse
  • child to parent abuse
  • abuse within kinship relationships.

Family and domestic violence can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, verbal and financial abuse. It can occur in current or past family, domestic or intimate relationships.

Family and domestic violence is predominantly, but not exclusively, perpetrated by men against women and children. We know from current and emerging research that rates of intimate partner violence within lesbian, gay and queer relationships are as high as the rates experienced by cisgender women in intimate heterosexual relationships. Rates of intimate partner violence may be higher for bisexual, trans and gender diverse people.

Signs of family and domestic violence

Symptoms of children witnessing family and domestic violence can include:

  • physical abuse symptoms
  • problems communicating
  • regressing developmentally
  • learning problems
  • difficulty managing their emotions
  • being bullied or bullying others
  • increased antisocial behaviour
  • being increasingly anxious or scared
  • hurting or inflicting cruelty on animals or other children
  • sleeping problems, such as nightmares and bedwetting.

Getting help

Worried about yourself, a friend or another family member? The following services provide help and support:


Call 000 and speak to the police if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.

Nationwide 24-hour services

1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Victoria-wide services

Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre (24-hour service): 1800 015 188 or 03 9322 3555

Sexual Assault Crisis Line (24-hour service): 1800 806 292

Men's Referral Service (24-hour service): 1800 065 973

Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA): go to VACCA: Family violence

Specialist support

In Touch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence: 03 9482 5744 or 03 8413 6800

Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service (Melbourne): 03 9482 5744

Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative (Western Victoria): 03 5331 5344

W/Respect: 1800 542 847

Thorne Harbour Health (for LGBTIQ+ people): 1800 134 840

Find out more

Find out more about Berry Street's family violence services.

For more information on family and domestic violence, please refer to the DHHS website.