Family violence is a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviours that take many different forms. It happens within intimate relationships as well as between family members and is rarely a one-off incident.
Family violence can affect anyone, regardless of sex, age, race, sexuality, disability, gender identity or lifestyle. However, violent behaviour is most frequently used by men, as a way to exercise power and control over women and children.
Different forms of violence and control
Family violence can be made up of many different behaviours.
Physical violence can include slapping, shoving, hitting, punching, pushing, kicking, twisting arms, burning, choking, driving dangerously, or using a weapon.
“Once when we were arguing I grabbed her and held her down. I thought it was the only way I could make her listen to me, I didn’t realise I was using physical violence to control the argument; to control my partner.” – Alex
Psychological or emotional
Psychological or emotional violence can include verbal abuse, name calling, criticising, undermining someone’s parenting, throwing or smashing things, insulting and putting down, harming a pet, or threatening any other kind of violence.
“I’d get pretty worked up sometimes, but I never thought it was a problem because I never took it out on her. I’d punch the wall, throw things around, sure, but I didn’t hit her.” – David
Sexual violence can includes forcing someone to watch porn, sharing photos or videos without permission, or any kind of sexual activity that the other person does not want to participate in – even within a marriage or intimate relationship – regardless of whether they have consensually participated in sexual activity before.
“After police got involved I spoke to a counsellor who asked me about consent. He asked me how I knew she was agreeing to everything we were doing and I couldn’t answer that. I didn’t know, I had just assumed.” – Jason
Social control can include monitoring phone calls or social media, humiliation in front of others, preventing someone from leaving the house, restricting contact with friends or family, or not allowing someone to participate in work or classes.
“I never liked her going out with her friends anyway, but after we had our son I made sure she knew it was her job to stay home and take care of him. I take her to visit her parents on the weekend but she doesn’t drive so I know she’s still at home while I’m working.” – Aamir
Economic control can include controlling household income and expenses, restricting access to money, closely monitoring spending, or coercing someone to sign documents, take out loans or make false declarations.
“I work hard to provide for my family. Money is tight, between the kids and the ongoing payments there isn’t a lot spare. I’d give her enough to buy the food we needed but I had to know about any other expenses.” – Hien
Violent and controlling behaviour can fall into more than one category, or may not fit into any of the categories listed above. While only some aspects of family violence are criminal offences, any behaviour that causes someone to be controlled or feel afraid is unacceptable – regardless of whether or not it was intended to make them feel that way.