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Different Types of Domestic and Family Violence

Physical violence

This is most people’s common understanding of domestic violence. It can include punching, hitting, slapping, whipping, hitting with objects, kicking, stomping, shoving, throwing, burning, stabbing and choking. Physical violence can be fatal and women are often at the highest risk of injury or death when leaving a violent relationship. Choking has also been identified as a red flag for potential homicide.

Psychological violence

This consists of actions that are used to threaten, intimidate, harass, belittle and humiliate. It can include threats of violence or death toward a woman or to her children, family, friends, work colleagues or pets. It can include isolating women from family and friends, yelling, breaking property, driving at excessive speed, making unfounded accusations of infidelity, interrogation and making threats of self-harm or suicide if the woman attempts to leave.

Sexual violence

This consists of sexual actions that are without consent. This can include coercion, physical force, rape, sexual assault with implements, being forced to watch or engage in pornography, enforced prostitution, or being made to have sex with other people.

Financial abuse

This can include control of household finances, limiting access to funds and forced acquisition of funds or property. Financial abuse is also a common form of abuse against older people and can involve accessing finances and property without consent.


This includes failure to provide care or provide for the basic needs of women who are dependent on others due to disability or for other reasons.

Technology-facilitated abuse

This can include monitoring actions, movements and communications through placing applications on phones and computers. It can include using phone calls, texts, emails and social media to make threats or make personal information public. Technology can also be used to record consensual or non-consensual sex and to upload, or threaten to upload, these images online without consent.

While alcohol, substance abuse, mental health issues and poverty can be contributing factors to violence, they are not the causal factors. Most people who consume alcohol or drugs, or who have mental health issues, do not commit acts of domestic or family violence.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation comprises "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons." FGM includes labiaplasty for girls under the age of 18 for non-medical reasons. Female genital mutilation is an act of violence, almost always against children. It has no benefits, only harm. It is practised in 29 countries in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and parts of Asia including India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Due to immigration, FGM is also practised globally including in western countries such as UK, USA, Europe and Australia. It is illegal in all states and territories of Australia.

Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is when a person gets married without freely and fully agreeing to the marriage because they do not understand the nature and effect of the marriage ceremony or they have been coerced, threatened or deceived.  This can include pressure from family or community, threats, physical harm, or being tricked into marrying someone.  This type of marriage is against the law in Australia.

Spiritual Abuse

Our spirituality provide the foundation of our lives – how we live, our family roles and how we interact with others, the meaning we find in our lives, and our sense of wellbeing.  To have our spiritual identity attacked is as personal as an attack can get. Spiritual abuse includes when your partner:

  • Belittles your beliefs, practices and traditions;
  • Not allowing you to fulfil your spiritual and/or religious commitment;
  • Misinterpreting or misusing religious texts against you;
  • Prevents you from participating in spiritual traditions;
  • Forcing you to participate in spiritual practices that are not your own.

Cultural Abuse

Our culture provides the foundation of our lives – how we live, our family roles and how we interact with others, the meaning we find in our lives, and our sense of wellbeing.  Each of these behaviours can deeply wound and often isolates you from your community. If your partner is behaving this way toward you, you may feel removed from your family and support system. Cultural abuse can look like this:

  • Telling you that you’re not “cultural enough”, or if your partner doesn’t share the same cultural background with you that you’re “too ethnic”
  • Uses hurtful stereotypes to put you down
  • Prevents you from participating in ceremonies, pow wows, feasts
  • Uses tribal membership against you
  • Tells you that you’re not allowed to drum, dance, sing, fast or otherwise participate in traditions because of your gender

Cultural violence occurs when an individual is harmed as a result of practices that are part of her culture, religion or tradition this includes fgm, dowry abuse and forced marriage.

Dowry Abuse - Dowry-related violence is a serious problem that affects the lives of women and girls. Dowry includes gifts, money, goods or property given from the bride’s family to the groom or in-laws before, during or any time after the marriage or in some cultures from the grooms family to brides family. Dowry is a response to explicit or implicit demands or expectations of the groom or his family. This means that the groom and his family feel entitled and think they own the bride because they paid her bride price. The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women defines dowry-related violence or harassment as “any act of violence or harassment associated with the giving or receiving of dowry at any time before, during or after the marriage.” The most common forms of dowry-related violence are battering, marital rape, acid throwing, wife burning, and other forms of violence. Perpetrators may also use methods of starvation, deprivation of clothing, evictions, and false imprisonment as a method of extortion. They often use violence disguised as suicides or accidents, such as stove or kerosene disasters, to burn or kill women for failing to meet dowry demands. 

Elder Abuse

Elder abuse can be defined as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

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