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Domestic and Family Violenceimages from the stories

What is domestic and family violence?

"All my energy was focussed on getting things right for him."

- Jean

Domestic and family violence is when someone intentionally uses violence, threats, force or intimidation to control and manipulate a family member, partner or former partner.

A central component of this definition that is also important for defining the difference between relationship conflict and domestic and family violence is the aspect of power and control. Domestic and family violence is characterised by one partner or family member using abusive behaviours/tactics to obtain power and control over their victim. The abuse is intentional and systematic, and often increases in frequency and severity the longer the relationship goes on.

Family Violence
Many Indigenous and CaLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) communities prefer the term ‘family violence’ which includes all forms of violence within intimate and family relationships.

This is the preferred term since it is not only partners, wives, or de-factos who are victims of violence and abuse but also mothers, sisters, aunties, children, some men, extended family and community.

A gendered crime
Domestic and family violence is a gendered crime. 95% of the victims of domestic and family violence are female and over 90% of the perpetrators are male.

Forms of abuse

"He wouldn’t hit me, but when he drank he’d just get aggro and punch holes in walls or smash stuff." – Vicki

Other forms of abuse that happen to many women and children include:

How many people experience DFV?

"You have no idea how validated I felt when – it was a woman at Centrelink actually - she made me understand that it was abuse." – Lynette

Around the World

The United Nations State of World Population Report (2005) revealed that gender based violence globally is the most widely spread and socially tolerated of human rights violations. They found that internationally one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused, usually by a family member or an acquaintance at some point in their life.

The same report also found that in Australia domestic and family violence is the single greatest health risk for women (more so than smoking, alcohol, breast cancer, or any other kind of virus, disease or substance that might impact upon a woman’s health).

 In Australia
It is important to know that domestic and family violence is not something that is experienced only by poor women or only by women overseas. Domestic and family violence in Australia and around the world pervades all cultural, religious and economic brackets. It can and does affect women from all walks of life…


ABS (2006). Personal Safety Survey. Australian Bureau of Statistics no. 4906.0.55.003

Boner, M., & Roberts, D. (2006). A review of literature relating to family and domestic violence in communities in Australia, Family and Domestic Violence Unit.

Cockram, J. (2003). Silent voices: Women with disabilities and family and domestic violence. Doctoral Dissertation, Edith Cowan University.

Curtin Division of Health Sciences (2002). Elder abuse in Western Australia: Report of a survey conducted for the Department for Community Development – Seniors Interests, Department for Community Development

Erez, E. (2000). Immigration, culture conflict and domestic violence/woman battering. Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal, 27-36

Ferrante, A., Morgan, F., Indermaur, D., & Harding, R. (1996). Measuring the extent of Domestic Violence. Sydney, NSW, Hawkins Press.

Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association. (2000). ‘Trapped in violence’ NESB women and children without income support: Results of a survey of NSW Women’s Refuges, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association

Indermaur, D. (2001). Young Australians and Domestic Violence. Australian Institute of Criminology

Pitts, M., Smith, A., Mitchell, A., & Patel, S. (2006). Private lives: A report o the health and wellbeing of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender and Intersex Australians. Latrobe University.

UNFPA (2005). Chapter 7: Gender based violence: A price too high. In. State of World Population Report, UNFPA

How does domestic and family violence affect women and children?

"My girl, she was screaming and crying and I was just looking at her while he was flogging me and all I was thinking was not in front of her, not in front of her I just don’t want her to see that." – Marla

Domestic and family violence can have serious, pervasive and long lasting consequences for all aspects of women’s and children’s health and wellbeing.


In 2000 the World Health Organisation released a report that outlined the impacts of domestic and family violence on women’s physical and emotional health including:

Physical health

Emotional health

Other consequences for women include isolation from friends and family members, disruptions at work and declines in concentration and productivity, and difficulties in learning to trust or connect to people outside of the home.


Domestic and family violence impacts upon children in a number of different ways, affecting their physical and emotional health and their social skills and behaviour. For children, the impacts related to witnessing or experiencing domestic and family violence begin as early as infancy and can last a lifetime.

Physical Emotional Behavioural/social Violence in later life

Research has also demonstrated that there is a strong intergenerational transmission of violence in that children and young people who are exposed to violence are significantly more likely to become involved in abusive relationships, either as the victim or perpetrator, when they enter adulthood.

The above information is based upon three research studies Indermaur (2000); Kitzmann (2003); Osofsky (1999)


Indermaur, D. (2001). Young Australians and Domestic Violence. Australian Institute of Criminology.

Kitzmann, K. M., Gaylord, N. K., Holt, A. R., & Kenny, E. D. (2003). Child witness to domestic violence: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 339-352

Osofsky, J. (1999). The impact of violence on children. Domestic Violence and Children, 9(3), 33-49

World Health Organisation. (2000). Violence against women. World Health Organisation.

Why do women stay?

It is a MYTH that it is easy for women who are being abused to leave the perpetrator, and while everyone’s reasons for staying are different some of the common explanations are outlined below:

I can actually remember thinking “I’m only getting beaten up once or twice a week it’ll come good again.” - Jenny