Domestic violence, or family violence, is violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour in a relationship. There are many types of domestic violence, including emotional, sexual, social, financial, spiritual and physical abuse.
If you’re dealing with domestic violence, there are a number of organisations that can offer you help and support.
For violence to be ‘domestic’, it doesn’t have to occur within your home, only within a relationship (with a family member 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.
Emotional abuse often goes unrecognised, but it 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 here about what emotional abuse is and where to get support for it.
The term ‘sexual abuse’ covers rape, indecent assault and a wide range of other unwanted sexual behaviours used by offenders as a way to control their victims. Read more here about the different kinds of sexual assault.
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.
If someone close to you controls your finances and access to money, and keeps you financially dependent on them so that you always have to ask them for money, this is a form of domestic violence.
Spiritual domestic violence involves preventing you from having your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs and values. It may also involve causing you to doubt your thoughts on spirituality in order to make you feel powerless. Attempting to cause shame is a large part of spiritual abuse, as is preventing people from practising their religious or cultural beliefs.
If you are in a relationship where you are being hurt or threatened, it’s important to know that you don’t have to stay and you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Lots of different kinds of support are available to help you. Click here to find out more about physical abuse and where to get support.
It may not always be obvious that you’re in an abusive relationship. It can be common for someone who is being abused to believe that it’s their own fault and that they somehow ‘deserve’ the abuse. Remember: you’re never to blame for the way an abusive person treats you.
A relationship can be violent and abusive without physical violence. It can include emotional, sexual and physical abuse, and may involve control of your finances.
Here are some signs to look for.
An abuser may try to control you 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 very important to protect yourself from harm if you feel that you’re being abused. You never have to do this alone. It’s really important that you have 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.
If you need financial support, contact Centrelink. In some circumstances, they can offer you crisis payments.
A shelter or refuge is a place where you can seek temporary accommodation. They will help you with a plan for longer-term accommodation. There are also usually other services available in refuges, including legal advice, emotional support, practical help (such as food and clothing), and good security.
Ask a trusted family member or friend if you can stay with them while you work out what to do next.
If you’ve been injured or sexually assaulted, contact emergency services or visit your nearest hospital emergency department. You can access counselling from a sexual assault counsellor to support you through this process. 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.
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 get some support to help you plan a path to safety. Reconnecting with friends or family can remind you of who you are and how much other people love and care for you.
Check out your legal rights at Youth Law Australia. Every state has laws designed to protect you against all forms of domestic violence.
Visit 1800RESPECT for more information on how to keep yourself safe.