When to do something

We can’t fix problems we can’t see. Which is why the first step in doing something about domestic and family violence is to learn how to identify it.

Domestic and family violence happens when one person in a relationship uses abuse or violence to maintain power and control over the other person.

The abuse is not always physical, it can be emotional, sexual, financial, social, spiritual, verbal, psychological or technology based – or other controlling and threatening behaviours that cause the person being abused to be fearful.

Although it commonly occurs as part of intimate partner relationships, domestic and family violence can also involve parents, siblings, extended family members and informal carers.

It’s important to remember that anyone can be the victim of domestic and family violence, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, background or living arrangements. However, women are disproportionally affected by domestic and family violence and it continues to be a major health and social justice issue.

Unfortunately, domestic and family violence is very common, affecting:

One in six women
1 in 6 women have experienced partner violence since the age of 15.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017), Personal Safety, Australia, 2016, cat. No. 4906.0.
One in seventeen men
1 in 17 men have experienced partner violence since the age of 15. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017), Personal Safety, Australia, 2016, cat. No. 4906.0.

In 2016-17 there were 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9000 men who sought homelessness* services due to domestic and family violence.

* Australian Institute of Health and Welfare - Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018
On average, one woman is murdered by her current or former partner every week in Australia
Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) 2017. The 2017 National Homicide Monitoring Program report by the AIC showed that over a 2-year period from 2012/13 to 2013/14, there were 99 female victims of intimate partner homicide. Women continue to be over-represented as victims of intimate partner homicide, accounting for 79% of all intimate partner homicides.

Even without a history of physical violence, domestic and family violence poses a serious risk to the victim’s wellbeing and personal safety.

If you suspect someone might be experiencing domestic and family violence, it’s incredibly important that you do something. Call the Police on triple zero (000) if someone is at risk of immediate harm.

When you think of domestic and family violence, you probably picture a couple engaged in some kind of extreme conflict.

But most healthy couples and families experience conflict from time to time – this is normal. Not all instances of domestic and family violence look or sound like a fight – they may be completely silent.

So, where is the line between healthy relationships and domestic and family violence?

The most important thing to remember is that domestic and family violence is not about conflict, it’s about POWER and CONTROL.

In a healthy relationship, both partners feel free to state their opinions, make their own decisions, to be themselves. There is an equal balance of power between partners.

Argument - there are angry lines coming from both, indicating conflict

In a relationship where there is domestic and family violence, there is an imbalance of power between the parties. The perpetrator of violence may exert that power through a range of controlling behaviours.

  • It could be aggressive, physically violent abuse heard through the neighbourhood.
  • It could be completely silent as the abusive partner isolates the victim from friends and family, and tightly controls their movements.
  • It could be a pattern of psychological and emotional abuse in the form of constant criticism and put downs that erodes the victim’s self-esteem to the point they lose all confidence.
  • It could be through controlling where the victim goes, who they can talk to, what they can wear and having access to money.

Perpetrators of violence are often very good at hiding their behaviour.

Outsiders may never witness an abusive interaction, but instead notice a change in the victim, or have an instinctual feeling that something isn’t right.

Here are some signs that might help identify if someone is experiencing domestic and family violence.

If you notice these signs, it’s a signal that you should do something. They may:

  • seem afraid of their partner or always very anxious to please them
  • stop seeing you, other friends or family and become isolated
  • become anxious or depressed, unusually quiet or less confident
  • be denied adequate care if they are an older person or a person with disability
  • have a partner who is controlling, obsessive or jealous
  • have a partner who has threatened to harm them, their children or pets
  • have a partner who continually phones or texts to check on them.
  • have physical injuries (bruises, sprains or cuts on the body) and may give unlikely explanations for these injuries
  • finish phone calls when their partner comes into the room
  • be reluctant to leave their children with their partner
  • suspect that they are being stalked or followed
  • say their partner or carer gives them no access to money, makes them justify every cent that is spent or makes them hand over their money.

If you notice these signs the next step is to find out what you can do to help.

Don’t wait for the situation to get worse, or assume that someone else will help. You are the person who can make a difference.