Family violence is the patterned use of violent, abusive, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour by someone against a family member(s), or someone with whom they have, or have had, an intimate relationship.

Evidence shows that family violence is a gendered crime, overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women and children. One in four women in Australia experience violence from an intimate male partner in their lifetimes.

In Australia, one woman is killed every week in the context of family violence.

While physical violence may be the most visible form of family violence, other tactics of abuse are often used to maintain power and control. Other types of violence may include:

  • Making threats to harm or kill family members or pets
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Intimidation, including through looks, or by displaying weapons
  • Emotional abuse
  • Isolating someone, or controlling where someone goes or who they see
  • Forcing someone to perform sexual acts, or not allowing them to say ‘no’
  • Abusing children, or exposing them to abuse or the effects of abuse
  • Abuse that targets a person’s disability or illness

  • Property damage

  • Abuse that targets a person’s religion or culture

  • Financial abuse
  • Forced marriage.

For more information about the tactics used in the context of family violence, please refer to the Power and Control Wheel.

What causes family violence?

As outlined in VicHealth’s Preventing violence against women: A framework for action (2009) and the National Framework for Prevention of Violence against Women and their Children, violence against women is caused by gender inequality.

On an individual and relationship level, violence against women is caused by:

  • Belief in rigid gender roles and identities and/or weak support for gender equality

  • Male entitlement

  • Male dominance and control of wealth in relationships

On a community and organisational level, violence against women is caused by:

  • Culturally specific norms regarding gender and sexuality

  • Masculine peer and organisational cultures

On a societal level, violence against women is caused by institutional and cultural support for, or weak sanctions against, gender inequality and gender roles.

Family violence is against the law

It is against the law to hurt any member of your family. In Victoria, the Family Violence Protection Act (2008) prohibits behaviour by a person towards a family member if that behaviour is:

  • physically or sexually abusive, or
  • emotionally or psychologically abusive, or
  • economically abusive, or
  • threatening or
  • coercive
  • or in any other way controls or dominates or causes the family member to feel fear.

Victoria Police hold perpetrators of family violence accountable for their actions. They can remove perpetrators from their home, issue a Safety Notice (a temporary intervention order) and apply for Family Violence Intervention Orders on a victim’s behalf. For more information, visit the Victoria Police website.