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Domestic violence, or family violence, is violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour in a relationship. There are many types of domestic violence, including social, physical, sexual and emotional. If you’re being subjected to domestic violence, there are a number of organisations that can offer you help and support.

This can help if:

  • you’re in an abusive relationship
  • you don’t know what to do about your abusive relationship
  • you don’t know where to go to get help
  • you don’t know what your rights are.
2 girls sitting on the sidewalk talking

What is domestic violence?

For violence to be ‘domestic’, it doesn’t have to occur within your home, only within a relationship (with family or an intimate partner). It occurs when someone close to you has power and control over you. This control or abuse can be expressed in different ways.

Physical abuse

If someone is hurting you physically, or is threatening to hurt you, a loved one or a pet, then you will need to take action. Read more about physical abuse and learn where to get support.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse often goes unrecognised and can be very hurtful. Someone who is emotionally abusive towards you wants to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. Read more about what constitutes emotional abuse.

Economic abuse

If someone close to you controls your finances, and keeps you financially dependent on them so that you always have to ask them for money, this is a form of domestic violence.

Social abuse

Social domestic violence occurs when someone insults or humiliates you in front of other people, keeps you isolated from family and friends, or controls what you do and where you go.

Spiritual abuse

Spiritual domestic violence involves preventing you from having your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs and values. It may also involve manipulating your thoughts on spirituality in order to make you feel powerless.

How can you keep yourself safe?

An abuser may exert control by downplaying the seriousness of what they’re doing to you. As a result, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of danger you’re in. It’s vital to protect yourself from harm if you feel that you’re being abused.

Decide if you’re in any immediate danger

How likely is it that someone will hurt you? Sometimes it’s hard to work out the danger or risks yourself. If you’re unsure about your safety, it’s important to talk to someone. If you feel uncomfortable, you may have to move to somewhere safe.

Get support

Making a decision to leave a situation where you feel unsafe may be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, counsellor or youth worker.

Talk to the police

If you feel unsafe, talk to the police. They’re there to protect you. You can also call state and territory support lines to talk about the risks you face.

Believe in yourself

If someone is hurting you, or threatening to hurt you, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence or feelings of self-worth. You might even want to blame yourself. Remember that it’s never okay for someone to hurt you or threaten to hurt you. The best thing you can do in this situation is to remove yourself.

Know your rights

Check out your legal rights at the Lawstuff website. Every state has laws designed to protect against all forms of domestic violence.

Where to go

Recognising that there’s a problem is the first step in getting help. The second is to know that you’re not alone. If you need to get out fast, you have a number of options.

Go to a refuge

A shelter or refuge is a place where you can seek temporary accommodation while you sort out your next steps. There are also usually other services available in refuges, including legal advice, emotional support, practical help (such as food and clothing), and good security.

Go to family or a friend

If you can, get in contact with a trusted family member or friend and ask if you can stay with them while you work out what to do next.

Other things to think about

Financial support

In some circumstances, Centrelink can offer you crisis payments. If you feel you can’t leave a situation because you have no money, check out the Centrelink page.

Legal support

Check out your legal rights at the Lawstuff website. Every state has laws designed to protect against all forms of domestic violence.

Medical support

If you’ve been injured or sexually assaulted, contact emergency services or visit your nearest hospital emergency department.

What can I do now?

  • Get personalised, anonymous online support with ReachOut NextStep to figure out what support options are best for you.
  • If you’re in immediate danger, call 000 (if you’re in Australia).
  • Contact a support service in your local area.