What Is Domestic and Family Violence and Abuse?

Domestic and family violence and abuse comes in many and varied forms such as one or a combination of physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, physiological, economic or financial, cultural, spiritual, and/or social abuse in a relationship where there is unequal power with threatening, coercion, manipulation, controlling and/or domination. Domestic and family violence and abuse is generally an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling the other person through fear. It occurs in all types of families including immediate, extended, married, de facto, separated, and divorced and may occur between any or all members such as men, women, children and elders.

Violent and abusive behaviours can include:


-includes slapping, hitting, punching, pushing, kicking, chocking, property damage to frighten and intimidate you (including punching holes in walls, breaking furniture, harming pets), depriving you of the necessities of life such as food, shelter and medical care, and sometimes murder. Physical abuse is the most obvious form of violence. It may begin with a lock of consideration for your physical comfort, but often escalates to action. Sexual abuse is part of physical abuse.


- includes yelling, shouting, insults, name-calling, put downs, swearing at you, threats, and bullying. This type of abuse is meant to degrade, demean, humiliate, and intimidate you.

Some of the things that can be threatened are:


- includes unwanted sexual acts, forcing or pressuring you to have sex, unwanted touching or any type of sexual touching or activity with a child under the age of 16 years.

Emotional / Psychological

- includes criticising your personality, looks, the way you dress, or saying you are a bad parent when this is not the case.

Economic or financial

- includes withholding or controlling of your money, not giving you enough money to survive on, forcing you to hand over your funds, not letting you decide how it is spent.

Cultural or spiritual

- includes forcing you to attend cultural or religious activities against your wishes or stopping you from participating in the cultural or religious practices of your choice.


- includes being put down or laughed at in from of others, smothering where he/she controls where you go, insisting on taking you everywhere, repeatedly rings while you are at work, must always know where you are or have been, not letting you see or have contact with your friends or family, not allowing or making it very difficult to get medical treatment. The consequences of not doing as you are told are sometimes so bad that you stop anyway.


- includes constantly following you by foot or car, constantly calling you by phone, text message and email, or staying outside your house or workplace. Stalking is a criminal offence in Queensland.

Domestic and family violence and abuse takes place in many relationships within society and is not limited to groups of specific race, culture, religion, or financial status. It is inflicted on old, young, abled, disabled, straight or gay alike. Women and children are the majority of those who are subjected to violent and abusive and behaviours in the home, but there are some men who are also subjected to it.

Relationships in which domestic and family violence and abuse occurs can be divided into three main groups:

  1. Intimate personal relationships.
    a) Spousal relationship - Exists between spouses, includes couples who are married, former spouses, de facto, a parent or former parent of a child.
    b) Engagement relationship - Exists between two persons if the persons are or were engaged to be married.
    c) Couple relationship - Exists between two persons if they have or had a relationship as a couple. Consider: degree of trust, level of dependence and commitment to each other, length of time of the relationship, frequency of contact and degree of intimacy.

  2. Family relationship - Exists between two persons if one of them is/was a relative of the other. A relative is someone who is ordinarily understood to be/have been connected by blood or marriage or is/was reasonable to regard as a relative. Can be a former relative.

  3. Informal Care Relationship - Exists between two persons if one of them is or was dependent on the other person (the carer) for help in an activity of daily living. An informal care relationship does not exist: between a child and a parent of a child or if the activity of daily living is/was under a commercial arrangement.

For people who use violence, a useful definition of violence is any action which is experienced by your partner as intimidating or causing fear and therefore having the effect of your partner limiting what they say or do.

If you are in a relevant relationship and you are experiencing domestic and family violence and abuse please seek help from one of the relevant authorities which for Australians can be found at Links To More Information And Phone Numbers For Australia.

The material on this Web page is based on information found at:

© S. D. Goeldner, 2012. Last updated August, 2019.

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