What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse in a relationship often starts gradually, such as with a push or a slap, and then becomes progressively worse over time. Physical violence is always illegal. If you have been physically abused, there are things you can do to get support.

This can help if:

  • you feel afraid of your partner all the time

  • you steer clear of certain topics to avoid making your partner angry

  • you feel like you can’t do anything right, or that you’re walking on eggshells because of their anger and rage.

Image of a teenage girl sitting against a wall in a school hallway. She had her knees drawn to her chest and is looking away from the camera with a non-smiling face.

What is physical abuse?

Physical abuse basically involves a person using physical force against you, which causes, or could cause, you harm.

Types of physical abuse

Physical abuse can involve any of the following violent acts:

  • scratching or biting

  • pushing or shoving

  • slapping

  • kicking

  • choking or strangling

  • throwing things

  • force feeding or denying you food

  • using weapons or objects that could hurt you

  • physically restraining you (such as pinning you against a wall, floor, bed, etc.)

  • reckless driving

  • other acts that hurt or threaten you.

How it starts

Many survivors of physical abuse say that the violence started with just a slap or a push, but then became more intense over time.

Blaming you

An abuser will often blame someone else, such as the victim, for saying or doing something that ‘caused’ their violent behaviour. Or they might say their behaviour was a result of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or feeling stressed or frustrated.

Telling you they’re sorry

It’s also quite common for the abuser to feel remorse and to apologise after an assault. They may beg for forgiveness and promise they’ll never do it again. They will quite often sincerely regret what they’ve done, which makes it more difficult for the victim of the assault to leave the relationship.

What you need to remember:

  • Their violent behaviour is always their responsibility, not yours.

  • Abuse is never okay or justifiable.

  • Whatever they say, their violence is never acceptable.

What should you do if you’ve been physically abused?

If you’ve experienced physical abuse, it’s essential that you seek help. There are a number of services that can offer support. Most importantly, if you’re currently fearful or you believe you’re in danger, contact the emergency services (000) immediately.

Use ReachOut NextStep. It’s an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options.

What can I do now?

  • Learn more about signs of an abusive relationship.