Family violence may involve a wide range of behaviours, including:

physical abuse - including direct assaults on the body, use of weapons, driving dangerously, destruction of property, abuse of pets in front of family members, assault of children, locking the victim out of the house, and sleep deprivation.

sexual abuse - any form of forced sex or sexual degradation, such as sexual activity without consent, causing pain during sex, assaulting genitals, coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, making the victim perform sexual acts unwillingly, criticising, or using sexually degrading insults.

emotional abuse - blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, sporadic sulking, withdrawing all interest and engagement (e.g. weeks of silence).

verbal abuse - continual 'put downs' and humiliation, either privately or publicly, with attacks following clear themes that focus on intelligence, sexuality, body image and capacity as a parent and spouse.

social abuse - systematic isolation from family and friends through techniques such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends, moving to locations where the victim knows nobody, and forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people.

economic abuse - complete control of all monies, no access to bank accounts, providing only an inadequate 'allowance', using any wages earned by the victim for household expenses.

spiritual abuse - denying access to ceremonies, land or family, preventing religious observance, forcing victims to do things against their beliefs, denigration of cultural background, or using religious teachings or cultural tradition as a reason for violence.


Both the Australian and State governments have a commitment to significantly reducing the incidence of family violence in our communities. The National Plan to Reduce Violence against women and their children is currently being developed. Family violence has no economic barriers, all levels of society contain victims and perpetrators of family violence. The 2005 study Personal Safety, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics gives an indication of how widespread violence against women and men is, and includes a section documenting violence by partners.

It is widely acknowledged that many incidents of family violence go unreported. The Australian Office for Women research suggests that domestic violence costs Australian businesses $1.5 billion a year through absenteeism, staff turnover and lost productivity (Henderson & Associates 2000). This figure does not take into account the costs to the health, housing and human services across Australia.

The cost in the loss of quality of life for victims of family violence cannot be measured.