InformationThis general information is provided as a guide for young people, parents and caregivers, service professsionals and schools. If you find incorrect information please contact us to have the relevant page updated.
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Family violence is when someone in the family tries to control, hurt or manipulate others. It includes any behaviour that causes physical, sexual or emotional damage, or causes someone to live in fear or high state of anxiety.
Violence may be perpetrated by a parent or young person and the violent person may not be abusive all the time. In fact abusive people can also be loving and kind some of the time, although this does not excuse their behaviour or actions. Abusive people may want to control others to minimise their own feelings of stress, anger, fear or anxiety. Stressors such as drugs, alcohol, unemployment and financial difficulties can cause anxiety for families, but should not be seen as the causes of violence.
Often victims may be wondering if there is something that they are doing to worsen the situation and thereby blame themselves. This can lead to the victim taking responsibility for the violent person’s behaviour.
Some examples of this include:
- Covering evidence of violence such as bruising or house damage.
- Changing your own behaviour to suit the other person.
- Not seeing friends or family.
People in abusive relationships may also feel:
- Afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone.
- Worried that it is their own fault.
- Depressed or lonely.
- Scared of coping on their own.
- Afraid they won’t be believed.
- That they have tried everything.
- Physical symptoms such as illness.
Types of Abuse
Family violence includes physical violence, verbal, sexual, and emotional abuses, neglect, and financial deprivation or control.
Physical violence is the use of physical strength or force to overpower, hurt or coerce another. Also includes threats of harm to victim’s loved ones or pets.
Verbal abuse refers to unacceptable and hurtful behaviour or put-downs that someone may say on a frequent basis.
Sexual abuse is forcing or coercing someone to partake in unwanted sexual activity. This is also a criminal offence in married couples.
Emotional abuse occurs when someone is frequently being criticised, put-down, stopped from seeing loved ones or made to feel guilty for it. It includes any actions that make another feel worthless and more dependent on the abuser.
Financial abuse and deprivation is the very tight control of expenditure by one partner. It may also include the deprivation of access to money.
Clear cases of child physical and sexual abuse should be reported to Child Protection at the Department of Human Services on 1300 360 391, or after hours on 13 12 78. Other types of abuse including neglect should be referred to Child FIRST on 1300 369 146.
- Take abuse issues seriously, it will often be a huge step for someone to speak out.
- Recognise, acknowledge and support the strength this can take.
- Help the victim to understand all the abuse issues that are current.
- Do not voice criticism of the abusive person. Express your support in a non judgemental manner.
- Tell them that the arguing/fighting is not their fault and give them every chance to talk about what is happening.
- Validate any feelings such as fear, anger or sadness as normal.
- Help them make a safety plan which they can easily follow.
- Assist the young person to understand that abuse affects everyone in the family negatively. Encourage accessing supports.
- It is often difficult for children to talk about violence and abuse. They may be scared they will be blamed or punished.
- Children who witness family violence generally have higher levels of anxiety, aggression, behavioural and emotional problems as well as physical complaints.
- Children may be learning that violence is a legitimate way for obtaining control or resolving conflict.
- Acknowledge the distress family violence can have on you and members of your family. Seek supports and encourage your family to discuss their feelings with someone they trust.