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Family Violence is…

Family violence is behaviour that controls or dominates a family member and causes them to fear for their own or another person’s safety or wellbeing.

It includes exposing a child to these behaviours, as well as their effects and impacts. Family violence presents across a spectrum of risk, ranging from subtle exploitation of power imbalances, through to escalating patterns of abuse over time.

Family violence is deeply gendered. While people of all genders can be perpetrators or victim survivors of family violence, overwhelmingly, perpetrators are men, who largely perpetrate violence against women (who are their current or former partner) and children.

However, family violence can occur in a range of ways across different relationship types and communities.

Family Violence is Against the Law

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 defines family violence as behaviour by a person towards a family member or person that is:

  • physically or sexually abusive
  • emotionally or psychologically abusive
  • economically abusive
  • threatening
  • coercive
  • in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person.

It also includes behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of behaviour referred to in these ways.

Source: MARAM Practice Guides – Working with Adult People Using Violence p.22

What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is not a standalone form of family violence. The term reflects the pattern and underlying feature or dynamic created by a perpetrator’s tactics and use of family violence and its felt impact or outcome on victim survivors. As a tactic, coercive control can include any combination of family violence behaviours (risk factors) used by a perpetrator to create a pattern or ‘system of behaviours’ intended to harm, punish, frighten, dominate, isolate, degrade, monitor or stalk, regulate and subordinate the victim survivor.

Coercive controlling behaviours may or may not include physical or sexual assault or threats to kill the adult or child victim survivor. However, the use or threat of these behaviours, even once, can create significant, ongoing threat of reoccurrence, creating and reinforcing an environment of coercive control.

The power and control dynamics underpinning family violence can have significant cumulative psychological, spiritual and cultural, physical and financial impacts on victim survivors. This can undermine a victim’s autonomy, capacity for resistance and sense of identity and self-worth. A victim survivor can feel trapped within their experience of coercive control, where their options for accessing safety and support are removed, restricted or regulated.

High levels of coercive control are an indicator for increased likelihood of adult or child victim survivor/s being killed or seriously injured. Recognising patterns of behaviour that underpin coercive control can enable broader recognition of family violence outside of overt or discrete ‘incidents’ of physical and sexual violence. Source: MARAM Practice Guides – Working with Adult People Using Violence

What is Coercive Control?
What is Coercive Control?

Forms of Family Violence

Family violence can include:

Physical abuse is any act in which physical force is used to harm family members.

Behaviours can include:

  • Pushing, shoving, slapping, scratching, biting, kicking or hair pulling
  • Maiming someone
  • Restraining (eg. pinning someone against a wall or bed)
  • Choking, strangling or shaking
  • Throwing objects
  • Threatening with a weapon
  • Hurting children or pets
  • Sleep and food deprivation
  • Driving recklessly


These behaviours can result in:

  • abrasions
  • broken bones
  • internal bleeding
  • head injuries/acquired brain injuries
  • permanent disability
  • death
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • suicidal behavior
  • substance abuse
  • physical arthritis
  • migraines
  • chronic pain
  • blood clots/ stroke

Sexual abuse is abuse of any nature which relates to sexual activity or sexual harassment.

Behaviours can include:

  • Rape any sexual activity with someone who has not given consent
  • Not stopping sex if the person you are having sex with has asked you to stop
  • Sexual contact when the other person is unable to consent, perhaps because they are drunk or unconscious
  • Pressuring or coercing someone into having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Not using protection when the other person wants to do so
  • Deliberately causing unwanted pain during sex, unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • Unwanted exposure to pornography
  • Sharing sexual photos, videos or messages of someone without their consent
  • Calling someone sexual names without their consent


These behaviours can result in:

  • feelings of shame
  • guilt
  • humiliation
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • mood swings
  • nightmares
  • flash backs
  • low self esteem
  • mental health diagnosis



Stalking and monitoring happens when someone repeatedly harasses you with unwanted contact or monitors your behaviour and where you are. The behavior can be constant and can make the family member feel like they cannot escape.

Behaviours can include:

  • Repeated emails or social media messages
  • Monitoring where you are and movements via location apps or surveillance and tracking devices
  • Repeated phone calls, text and voicemail messages
  • The person following you to or from your home, workplace, or social activities
  • Notes left at your home, workplace or on your car
  • Unwanted flowers or gifts sent to your home
  • Getting information about you through online searches, public records, or going through your rubbish
  • Hiring a private investigator to follow you, or discover information about you
  • The person showing up uninvited at your home, work or school


A person can use the internet, social media, mobile devices and other digital technologies to stalk, harass and monitor your whereabouts. This can include a person:

  • using social media to bully, intimidate, or bother you with unwanted attention
  • monitoring your physical location by using your social media and email accounts without your permission
  • using transport tracking and surveillance devices to see where you are
  • installing an application or spyware on your phone that allows them to get access to your information and whereabouts without your permission.
  • using your professional registration to track your location
  • providing the children with technology for the purposes of tracking the family members


Controlling behavior is how a person gains and maintains power over someone else. Controlling behavior can build over time and typically comes across as ‘protective’ or ‘caring’ in the beginning and becomes more overt with time.

Behaviors can include:

  • Dictating what a person does;
  • not allowing a person to express their feelings or thoughts;
  • not allowing a person any privacy;
  • forcing a person to go without food or water;
  • not allowing a person to go anywhere without them and if they do the perpetrator becomes angry or sullen;
  • calling a person repeatedly wanting to know their location and who they are with;
  • telling a person what they can and can’t wear;
  • monitors a persons phone, social media, car mileage and location.

Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior in which the perpetrator insults, humiliates, and generally instill fear in an individual in order to control them. The family members reality may become distorted as they internalise the abuse as their own failings.

Behavours that include emotional abuse are:

  •  Demeaning, shaming, or humiliating a person
  •  Extreme jealousy, accusations, and paranoia
  •  Delivering constant criticism
  •  Regular ridicule or teasing
  •  Making acceptance or care conditional on a person’s choices
  •  Refusing to allow a person to spend time alone
  •  Thwarting a person’s professional or personal goals
  •  Instilling self-doubt and worthlessness
  •  Gaslighting: making a person question their competence and even their basic perceptual experiences
  • Driving dangerously
  • Threats to commit self harm/suicide
  • Intimidation
  • Implying the family member is mentally unwell, has substance abuse issues or an unfit parent


These behaviours can result in:

  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Low confidence
  • Nightmares
  • Aches
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  •  Social withdrawal

Verbal abuse is a type of emotional abuse. It is when someone uses their words to assault, dominate, ridicule, manipulate, and/or degrade another person and negatively impact that person’s psychological health.

Behaviours can include:

  • Name-calling,
  • threats,
  • put-downs,
  • screaming,
  • bullying
  • ridiculing


These behaviours can result in:

  • Feeling threatened
  • Feeling like you need to walk on egg shells and cannot relax
  • Feelings of shame or inferiority
  • You cannot share things about yourself out of fear

Threatening and intimidating behaviors are words, actions, or implied threats that cause reasonable fear of injury to the health and safety of any person or property.

Behaviours can include

  • threats of physical assaults
  • raised voices, yelling, threatening behaviours towards family members/pets
  • possession of fireworks or weapons
  • coercing family members to do acts they don’t want to do, such as illegal drugs, sex work or engage in illegal activities
  • threats to do violence
  • harassment of any person


This can result in:

  • Ongoing fear
  • Feeling the need to walk on egg shells

Social isolation abuse is behavior that aims to cut you off from your family, friends, or community. It can also involve a person or people trying to damage your relationships with others. People who are socially abusive may also attempt to make you look bad or ruin your reputation. Social isolation abuse can include things done in the home, in public, over the phone, or on the internet and social media.

Behaviors may include:

  • Stopping you from seeing friends, family, or other people
  • Not allowing you outside your home, room, or accommodation facility
  • Not allowing you to participate in social and community activities
  • Needing to know everywhere you have been or are going
  • Needing to know everyone you have seen or are planning to see
  • Checking or interfering with your mail, phone, email or social media
  • Sharing private photos or videos of you online without your permission
  • Using social media or the internet to spread lies or damaging information about you
  • Telling lies about you to friends and family or trying to turn others against you
  • Deliberately doing things to make you miss, or be late for, events, appointments or meetings
  • Deliberately doing things to make you look bad or embarrass you in front of others
  • Restricting access to your car, other forms of transport, wheelchair, or mobility aids


These behaviors can result in the family member:

  • Not having anyone to go to, to seek help/assistance from
  • Removing their ability to work, or hold down a job
  • Damage to their reputation as a reliable person

Damage to property is where a person deliberately causes damage to property owned by their partner. The word property is used to represent something owned by a person – it could be a car, a house, or furniture.

Behaviours can include:

  • Punching holes in a wall or door
  • Damaging a family members personal items
  • Stealing or selling s family members personal items


These behaviours can result in:

  • Fines being generated in the property owners/tenants name as a result of the damage
  • Expenses being incurred by the property owner to replace/repair items
  • Fear that sentimental items that cannot be replaced are damaged, causing the person to remain in the relationship for longer.


Financial abuse is a form of coercive control and falls under three main behavior’s:

Controlling a family member’s money:

  • Taking control of someone else’s finances (e.g. being in charge of all the household income and paying the other person an allowance)
  • Controlling how all of the household income is spent
  • Forcing a family member to claim social security benefits like Centrelink
  • Making a family member be the guarantor on a loan or taking out a loan in their name
  • Making a family member take out a second credit card
  • Forcing a family member to work in a family business without being paid
  • Filing fraudulent insurance claims
  • Forging a family member’s signature on financial documents
  • Taking money out of a family member’s pension
  • Selling a family member’s possessions without permission
  • Misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney
  • Forcing a family member to change their will


Stopping a family member from earning their own money:

  • Stopping a family member from getting a job or going to work
  • Stopping a family member from going to work or important meetings by keeping them up all night or physically hurting them
  • Stopping a family member from studying
  • Stalking or harassing a family member’s colleagues


Limiting a family member’s access to money:

  • Not giving a family member access to bank accounts
  • Denying a family member access to money so they can’t afford basic expenses like food or medicine
  • Destroying, damaging or stealing property
  • Racking up debt on shared accounts or joint credit cards
  • Withholding financial support like child support payments
  • Refusing to work or contribute anything to the household income
  • Gambling away a family member’s money or shared money

Technology-facilitated abuse is a form of controlling behaviour that involves the use of technology as a means to coerce, stalk or harass another person. This can include:

  • Sending abusive texts, emails or messages via social media
  • Making continuous controlling or threatening phone calls
  • Making someone prove where they are by sending photos of their location
  • Checking someones text messages, social media activity or internet activity
  • Forbidding someone from having a phone or limiting who they can contact via phone or internet
  • Spying on, monitoring or stalking someone through any type of surveillance device (such as a tracking system or spyware)
  • Sharing intimate photos of someone without their consent (sometimes called revenge porn)
  • Altering images of people using Artificial Intelligence to put them in sexual or compromising positions

Cultural and spiritual abuse is a type of emotional abuse where a person uses a cultural or spiritual identity to control another person. This is often seen as a pattern of behaviour over a period of time where the abuser might criticise, shame or belittle their partner’s beliefs to exert control over them

The may include not allowing a person to practice their beliefs; forcing a person to change religion; not respecting religious practices; attacking a person’s spiritual or religious beliefs; forcing a person to take part in spiritual or religious practices when they don’t want to; using religious and spiritual leaders or teaching to force a person to stay in the relationships or marriage; using culture or religion as an excuse for violence and abusive behaviour; stopping a person or their children from getting medical treatment; misinformation provided by a perpetrator about Australian laws and a persons right; being rejected by community if a person makes a report to police; forced marriage; female genital mutilation, and dowry-related violence.

Visa abuse is when someone in a family-like relationship exploits the fact that another person is without permanent residency or citizenship as a way to exert power and control over them.

This may including using a persons immigration status and fear of deportation to control them, hiding or taking a persons passport or visa documentation,  causing a person to overstay their visa; making false claims about a persons visa status. If a person is bought into Australia on incorrect visa information and under false pretences for the purpose of exploitation, coercion or having had their travel documentation taken away can also be defined as human trafficking.

Forced marriage  is when one or more of the parties is married without their consent or against their will. A marriage can also become a forced marriage even if both parties enter with full consent if one or both are later forced to stay in the marriage against their will.

This could occur due to pressure for marriage by their family of origin, when a pregnancy occurs out of wedlock, or when the person doesn’t understand the meaning of the legal process of marriage.

There are also instances where people believe they are married, due to having participated in a wedding ceremony, however the legal documents are not signed or filed, which results in the relationship not being genuine and often putting the person’s visa status at risk

Anybody can be a victim of forced marriage regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, or religious or cultural background; forced marriage is a crime in Australia.

Reproductive abuse is a range of behaviors such as pressure, manipulation, emotional blackmail, trickery, threats and the use of various kinds of abuse to dictate a person’s reproductive choices or interfere with their reproductive autonomy.

This can include behaviors designed to force pregnancy onto their partner, including:

  • stealthing (removing condoms without consent or knowledge of their partner),
  • denying access or funds for contraception and
  • forced sex.

This often results in the victim-survivor having more children than they had planned or feel they can effectively parent.

It can also include behaviors which relate to whether a pregnancy is carried to full term. This can include:

  • coercing their partner into an abortion,
  • denying access to medical interventions, pre-natal vitamins, medications and procedures needed to remain pregnant
  • physical abuse with the aim to prematurely end the pregnancy.

This can result in a loss of a wanted pregnancy, physical harm, or death.

When there are threats or physical, psychological harm or neglect to animals. This may include:

  • killing pets,
  • denying access to the pets,
  • hiding pets,
  • refusing food or medical treatment to animals.

Animal abuse occurs in the context of family violence to prevent a victim survivor leaving a relationship; to demonstrate the level of violence a perpetrator is prepared to commit against a loved member of the family, or as a tactic of coercive control.

All forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.

This may include:

  • a lack of personal care support,
  • lack of food and water,
  • lack of medical interventions and support to attend medical appointments,
  • inappropriate clothing,
  • lack of cleanliness and hygiene,
  • lack of appropriate sleeping conditions,
  • and other forms of family violence can occur at the same time.

When someone uses the law or legal threats to control and scare another person; when a person makes false reports to the courts or police; destruction of legal documents; refusal to do what the court has ordered. Use of the legal or child protection system’s to control, threaten or harass their current or former partner. This may include making multiple applications and complaints in multiple systems (for example, the courts, Child Support Agency, Centrelink, Child Protection) in relation to a protection order, breach, parenting, divorce, property, child and welfare support and other matters with the intention of interrupting, deferring, prolonging or dismissing judicial and administrative processes, which may result in depleting the victim’s financial resources and emotional wellbeing, and adversely impacting the victim’s capacity to maintain employment or to care for children.

Specific cohorts of people can experience unique forms of Family Violence which can include:

People who are from the LGBTIQ+ community may experience violence from:

  • their family of origin
  • a partner/former partner who is the same sex/gender
  • a partner/former partner who is the opposite sex/gender

People within the LGBTIQ+ community may have their sexuality or gender identity utalised as a unique form of family violence, which is the overlay of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia with family violence.

Some examples of unique forms of family violence which may be present when someone is part of the LGBTIQ+ community are:

  •  Threats to expose a person’s sexuality,
  • threats to share private information about a person’s gender history,
  • threats to share a persons sex characteristics
  • threats to share HIV status;
  • hiding or withholding medications or hormones;
  • using homophobia, transphobia and lack of support as tools of control a person;
  • pressure and coercion to undertake Conversion Therapy;
  • threatens to disown a family member due to their identity;
  • pressure and coercion towards a person to conform to traditional gender and sexual norms, relationships and marriage.


People who have a disability may experience violence from:

  • their family of origin
  • a partner/former partner
  • an unpaid carer/friend/neighbor

While all forms of violence is unacceptable, violence from paid carer’s is not considered ‘family’ violence.

People with disabilities may have ablism used a unique form of family violence against them.

Some examples of unique forms of family violence which may be present when someone has a disability are:

  • withholding aides,
  • withholding medication or other devices that support the day-to-day capacity of people with disability;
  • threats of abandonment or institutionalisation
  • threats to remove their children because of their disability
  • hiding or moving furniture in an attempt to confuse the person or to make daily living difficult
  • refusal to provide agreed assistance, such as dressing, showering or other needs for daily living
  • threats to harm assistance animals
  • denial of outside services to create dependency on the person/people choosing to use violence.


Children can experience violence from:

  • their family of origin
  • extended family
  • people who they are in a family ‘like’ relationship with

While all forms of violence are unacceptable, child abuse which occurs from people who hold a statutory responsibility over children such as teachers, early childhood educators, sports coaches etc is not considered ‘family’ violence.

Children can be impacted by family violence in the following ways:

  • Exposing the children to family violence
  • Sexualised behaviors towards the child, including exposing them to adult material such as pornography
  • Children feeling compelled to intervene in the violence to protect a parent or sibling
  • Undermining the parent-child relationship with the parent not using violence

Due to the on-going impacts of family violence children can be uniquely affected by family violence, as it can impact on:

  • children’s ability to met developmental milestones
  • children’s ability to form healthy peer to peer relationships
  • children’s ability to concentrate and learn at school

Early intervention has shown the strongest impact in assisting children to overcome the impacts of family violence.

People from out First Nations communities may experience violence from their:

  • family of origin
  • kinship group
  • former/current partner who is First Nations
  • former/current partner who isn’t First Nations.

Our Aboriginal community may have racism used as a form of family violence. The historical nature of discrimination by services which has resulted in child removal, the denial of medical services and higher incarceration rates and deaths in custody means that many people from our Aboriginals communities will not seek assistance at the first signs of family violence.

Some examples of unique forms of family violence which may be present when working with someone from the Aboriginals community:

  • derogatory language used about the person’s race or culture
  • threats to report the person without cause to statutory agencies such as Child Protection or Police
  • discounting the person’s cultural identity
  • disconnecting the person from their family group, or preventing them from seeking information about their family or gaining a connection to their country
  • exacerbating fears of child removal or deaths in custody to prevent them seeking assistance

A sex worker is someone who may work in:

Full service sex work such as

  • Brothels
  • Escort agencies
  • Owner operated/private work

Work which require sexual acts such as:

  • Massage parlours
  • Exotic dancing
  • Topless bar tending
  • Online sex work

People who work in the sex industry may experience violence from:

  • family of origin
  • former/current partners

While all forms of violence are unacceptable, violence from clients is not considered ‘family’ violence.

Sex work has been decriminalised in Victoria, however the work has a long history of being criminalised and discriminated against due to purity culture which has been informed by patriarchy.

Some examples of unique forms of family violence which may be present when working with someone who works in the sex industry are:

  •  threats to ‘out’ a victim survivors who has or is working as a sex worker to the victim survivors family, friends, community
  • altering or changing social media advertisements and information to imply the person will offer greater sexual services than they are comfortable with
  • inappropriate or ‘slut shaming’ comments;
  • encouraging clients to abuse, threaten or violate the family member
  • posting fake reviews about the family member;
  • controling the bookings and money;
  • justifying/excusing the abuse the person may receive from clients because of the nature of the work;
  • limiting the amount of personal time the victim has to not see clients. E.g., booking back-to-back clients without their consent;
  • isolating the family member by coercing them to work in an isolated location;
  • threatening or telling children or Child Protection about their parents sex work to discredit them as a parent;
  • tracking the victim survivor with the pretense of providing security.

People who are engaging in sex work willingly are sex workers. Sex workers have the right to set the boundaries within their work that they are comfortable with and people utalising family violence will often push those boundaries.

People who are coerced into the sex industry are experiencing human trafficking. Sex workers and human trafficking victims are two different cohorts and we shouldn’t conflate or confuse the two cohorts as they need a separate response to what they’re experiencing.

Human Trafficking is not always a form of family violence. However, it overlaps with family violence when:

  • It’s results in forced marriage
  • The person is living in a ‘family-like’ relationship with the person who is trafficking them. This could include someone who is forced to undertake domestic labour such as cleaning/child rearing or live with someone who is forcing them to undertake sex work.

Some common forms of human trafficking which may not be considered family violence are:

  • Forced labour, such as farm work
  • Organ trafficking

People who experience human trafficking will usually have multiple people involved in their violence, this can include:

  • their family of origin
  • extended family/kinship
  • someone they commenced an intimate partner relationship with
  • people unknown to them

People who have been trafficked have been moved from their locations,  which can include both domestic and international. The control their abusers have over them takes many forms and can be difficult to identify. It could look like:

  • abduction
  • deception
  • abuse of power or a position of leadership
  • fraud
  • paying other people to gain ‘consent’
  • taking advantage of vulnerability.

This control means ongoing exploitation, which could look like:

  • slavery
  • servitude
  • deceptive recruiting
  • debt bondage
  • forced labour
  • forced marriage
  • domestic child trafficking
  • trafficking of persons between countries and within Australia
  • organ trafficking.

Human trafficking is against Federal Law. There are specific programs designed to assist people who have experienced this sort of violence, however family violence agencies can also assist with safety and risk management and referrals when the situation overlaps with family violence.

People who are from faith communities can have unique forms of family violence utalised against them.

Faith communities includes organised religion such as:

  • Christianity
  • Catholicism
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Judaism

However it also includes non-organised or smaller religions.

Everyone who holds a religious faith will practice it differently, however for some people who are devote in their faith it provides them with the mechanism to access their:

  • extended community
  • the means by which their family gathers and organises particularly around traditional events such as weddings and cultural celebrations

People who are part of faith communities which are organised in these ways, can have unique forms of family violence used against them such as:

  • derogatory language used about the faith
  • discounting the significance of religious events or preventing them from participating in rituals around these events.
  • coercing a person of faith to convert or practice a faith that is incompatible with their own
  • disconnecting the person from their family or faith group

Faith can also be used as a tool to keep people in relationships which are violent. This is done by:

  • threatening the person with excommunication or disbarment from the faith group if they leave the person choosing to use violence
  • coercing the person to remain with the person choosing to use violence because it’s what the religious leader/religious text teaches
  • Coercing or preventing the person from taking their children from the faith group, which forces them to remain with the person who chooses to use violence
  • Teaching that abuse or violence is a normalised behavior within the faith group

Some faith groups also have a history of child removal due to discrimination, and in those instances threats to report to Child Protection without cause can also be used as a form of family violence.

If someone is not religious and holds no desire to be part of a faith community, coercing them into being part of a faith community and participating in the rituals is also a form of family violence.

Older people can experience violence from

  • family of origin
  • adult children
  • current/former partners
  • unpaid carers,
  • friends
  • neighbors

While all forms of violence is unacceptable violence from paid carers is not considered ‘family violence’.

Age discrimination occurs when there is prejudice or bias about someone’s capacities due to their age, people who are older may experience an overlap of age discrimination and family violence.

Some forms of family violence which may be present when someone is older are:

  • withholding aides,
  • withholding medication or other devices that support the day-to-day capacity of older people
  • threats of abandonment or institutionalisation
  • hiding or moving furniture in an attempt to confuse the person or to make daily living difficult
  • refusal to provide agreed assistance, such as dressing, showering or other needs for daily living
  • denial of outside services to create dependency on the person/people using violence.
  • manipulation or coercion to have the assets signed over to a family member
  • people moving into their home without their permission
  • manipulation or coercion to have the financial and/or medical power of attorney signed over to a family member

Adolescents can use violence against:

  • their family of origin
  • their extended family

It’s important to understand the adolescents who use violence have often experienced or are currently experiencing violence from adults. The violence they are using is often a replication of behaviours they have seen or an attempt to have their needs met.

While all violence in unacceptable, we approach adolescents who use violence through a whole-of-family-approach to support all family members to work towards a supportive environment for the young person and to help the young person understand the impact of the violence they are using and how to develop healthy mechanisms of dispute resolution, and communication. However, there are instances of intervention to keep members of the family safe.

People who develop or who have pre-existing mental illness may find it difficult to seek help because they may doubt they fear they will be blamed for the violence due to their mental illness.

There is still a stigma which many people with a mental illness experience when they disclose their condition, which makes it difficult for many to find employment, housing and proper medical supports.

Some forms of family violence which may be present when someone is experiencing poor mental health are:

  • overexaggerating the impact of the mental illness on children to remove custody
  • gaslighting the person using the mental illness as an excuse for the violence
  • withholding medications or treatments
  • threats of instiutionalisation

Alcohol and drug use is strongly associated with an increase in the likelihood of family violence occurring and an increase in the risk of physical violence, injury and hospitalisation.

Some forms of family violence which may be present when someone is experiencing poor mental health are:

  • overexaggerating the impact of the alcohol and drug use on children to remove custody
  • gaslighting the person using the alcohol and drug use as an excuse
  • withholding medications or treatments
  • threats of instiutionalisation
  • encouraging use of the chosen substance with the aim to incapacitate the person

Due to the family violence the victim survivor may use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism or to placate the person who chooses to use violence. However, it can reduce a person’s capacity to keep themselves and others safe; there may be increase feelings of shame and sense of responsibility for the violence, an increase reluctance to seek help and in the case of police involvement, reduce the likelihood that the person using violence will be arrested or charged.

Women who have been to prison have been to prison for many reasons, however there is often an overlay of family violence which has placed them in the circumstance where they have committed a crime as a result of the family violence relationship they are in. Some examples of this are:

  • acting under duress to sell drugs or other illegal contraband
  • acting under duress to work in sex work
  • accumulating fines which were actually a result of the person who chose to use violence
  • fraud or deception of banks or Centrelink at the duress of the person choosing to use violence

While crimes are always unacceptable, it is recognised that women who have been in prison experience higher risk factors upon leaving prison due to their previous history of being incarcerated and the culture of discrimination against people who have been incarcerated in Australia.

Some of those risk factors are:

  • a higher risk of continued coercion into illegal activities die to the difficulties of gaining employment and housing that people who have been incarcerated experience
  • a lower likelihood of seeking assistance from family violence services due to fears of becoming re-engaged with Victoria Police.
  • difficulties in recovery due to their history of incarceration


Drivers of Family Violence

There is consensus in the international and national research that violence against women arises in the social context of gender inequality, and that this violence has distinct gendered drivers. There is a solid evidence base regarding the drivers and reinforcing factors that lead to family violence.

The drivers of family violence are:

  • Condoning of violence against women
  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence in public and private life
  • Rigid gender stereotyping and dominant forms of masculinity
  • Male peer relations and cultures of masculinity that emphasise aggression, dominance and control

There are a range of factors that, while they do not drive violence on their own, can contribute to violence against women or make it worse. Reinforcing factors include:

  • Condoning of violence in general, which can lead to the ‘normalisation’ of violence.
  • Experience of, and exposure to, violence (particularly during childhood).
  • Factors that can weaken prosocial behaviour (such as stress, environmental/neighbourhood factors, natural disasters and crises, male-dominated settings and heavy alcohol consumption) and therefore reduce empathy, respect and concern for women.
  • Backlash and resistance to prevention and gender equality (actions that seek to block change, uphold the status quo of gender relations, or re-establish male privilege and power), which creates an environment in which there is a heightened risk of violence.

Source – Our Watch

Myths & Excuses of Family Violence

Let’s change the story: Violence against women in Australia

Myths & Excuses of Family Violence

There are many commonly held misconceptions in our society and projected in the media that family violence is caused by:

  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Unemployment
  • Financial stress
  • Family background
  • Mental illness
  • Provocation
  • Culture
  • Disability

None of these factors cause violence and there is no excuse for it. Many people are dealing with a number of these issues and don’t use violence against others, including their partners or family members. Using violence is a choice made by the individual. For more information about family violence myths. To find out more about myths and excuses visit Safe Steps or Safe+Equal

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) is the world’s longest-running survey of community attitudes towards violence against women. It has been led by VicHealth (2009 and 2013) and ANROWS led the next wave. For more information click here