What is domestic violence?

Commonly, people in intimate relationships disagree about things from time to time.  These disagreements are a normal part of a healthy relationship. Both parties in an intimate relationship should be able to voice their different points of view or concerns and feel comfortable discussing them with their partner. In a healthy relationship both parties treat each other with respect, as equals and compromise so they can find a solution they are both happy with. However, in an unhealthy relationship, where domestic and family violence is occurring the situation is very different. In an unhealthy relationship, one person in the relationship uses abuse and/or violence to control the other person through fear. As a result, the person feeling controlled may feel threatened and too frightened to argue back, or too scared to disagree or express their opinion.

Domestic and family violence takes place in the context of an intimate partner relationship. For example, a current intimate partner, or a previous intimate partner, or within a family relationship, or in an informal care relationship. This could be a woman being abused by a male, or a male being abused by a woman. Domestic and family violence is not exclusive to heterosexual relationships, it can also occur within same-sex couples and other intimate relationships that exist in the LGBTIQ+ community.

Often thought of as being mainly about physical abuse, domestic violence can be any behaviour used to exert POWER and CONTROL over a person through fear. Types of domestic and family violence behaviours include: Financial abuse, stalking, verbal abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, sexual abuse, reproductive abuse, spiritual/cultural abuse, damage to personal property, technological abuse, also known as digital abuse, and social abuse.


The Duluth Model of domestic and family violence?

DVConnect defines domestic and family violence and abuse using the Duluth Model.


Types of domestic and family abuse

The below outline domestic and family violence behaviours:

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can include direct assaults on the body using objects or weapons; assault on children, being denied access to your home, as well as deprivation of sleep or food. Physical abuse is a crime.  More

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse can include constant put-downs, insults, ridicule, name calling, yelling, humiliation in public or in private, as well as insults around sexuality, body image, intelligence or parenting skills.

Psychological / Emotional Abuse

Psychological/emotional abuse can includes behaviour and/or comments and taunts to undermine your sense of self and your personal security. This may impose a sense of vulnerability around your personal safety or mental health and wellbeing. More

Social Abuse

Social abuse is systematically controlling who you see, who you speak to, or who you receive phone calls, messages or email from. Controlling where you go so that you become socially or geographically isolated from other people. More

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse (also known as economic abuse) includes refusing you access to money, especially where the money is legally due to you. For example your wages or an inheritance. It also includes accumulating debt in your name, or preventing you from seeking or keeping employment. More

Damage to Personal Property

Damage to personal property includes using physical strength or violence to intimidate you by causing, or threatening to cause damage to your property or valuables.

Digital/Technology Abuse

Digital abuse can involve using technology to bully, harass or intimidate a partner. This can include threats to share, or actually sharing private photos online without your consent. It also includes controlling who you can and cannot be friends with on social media and sending insulting messages via digital platforms. More

Spiritual / Cultural Abuse

Spiritual or cultural abuse can include not allowing you to practice your chosen religion or cultural beliefs. Misusing religious or spiritual traditions to justify physical or other abuse towards you.


Stalking is intended to intimidate and/or harass you. It can include following you to work, your place of study, your home, or following you when you are out in public. It can include the stalker/abuser watching you, phoning you, leaving phone messages for you, writing you letters, or text messaging you.  It also includes sending you text messages, or messages via social media, and/or signing into your social media accounts. Stalking is a crime. More

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any forced or unwanted sexual contact or activity. Humiliation can often play a part in sexual abuse as well. Our Sexual Assault Helpline can help you. Sexual abuse (also referred to as sexual assault and/or sexual violence) is a crime. More

Reproductive Control

Reproductive control is closely aligned with sexual abuse. It is uniquely related to women’s, (specifically young women’s) ability to control their own reproductive health. For example, using or not using contraception. Or forcing you to make decisions around pregnancy and/or termination. As well as having little to say in the number of children you have, or the timing of when you have children.


More information

Domestic violence statistics you need to know.

Learn about the Cycle of Violence

Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Controlling Relationships

Safety Planning

Learn about Women’s Shelters / Refuges

How DVConnect can help you if you’re in an abusive relationship

How you can help a loved one or friend who is in an abusive relationship


Call us, we can help you.

Call 1800 811 811

Thank you for your help, for everything you have done for me over the last few days. Your services are more than impressive and impeccable for anyone who may be in danger or in need of help of any kind. I may not be here today without your protection and the services you provided me. It is amazing to know there are people out there that give their absolute best to keep others safe, because they can and they care. Before making the call to you I felt too ashamed and far too proud to ask anyone for help. But now I feel strong knowing that I had the courage to put my hand up and ask for help. It saved my life! 

Sarah, Gold Coast

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