Domestic and family violence - controlling and violent relationships

Some relationships involve behaviour that is damaging to the other partner and, in some cases, may be criminal. Healthy relationships are based on equality and respect between partners.

When one partner tries to control the other partner, it can be harmful to both parties. A control or power imbalance can take many forms, including intimidation, threats, stalking or physical and sexual abuse.

This usually results in one partner being frightened of the other, and feeling unsafe in the relationship.

Violence and abuse in relationships

Physical violence in intimate and family relationships is a serious criminal offence and is never acceptable as a response to conflict or provocation.

Once physical violence occurs in a relationship, it can easily become a pattern. Sometimes the violent person will apologise and promise it will never happen again, but it generally always does. It often becomes more frequent, and usually more serious the longer the relationship continues.  It can ultimately lead to serious injury, or even death.  Violence in an intimate or family relationship is a sign that the relationship is in crisis. It should be taken seriously and assistance should be sought.

If you feel unsafe or in danger, contact a domestic violence support service or the police.

Police Emergency       000

1800 RESPECT         1800 737 732

Mensline Australia      1300 789 978

Lifeline                      131 114

What sort of behaviours can be called domestic or family violence?

Examples of behaviours that constitute family violence include:

  • physical assault – punching, kicking, slapping, choking or using weapons against the victim. All threats of physical violence should be taken seriously
  • sexual assault - any non-consenting (not fully agreed to by both partners) sexual act or behaviour; any unwanted or disrespectful sexual touch, rape (with or without threats of other violence), forced compliance in sexual acts, indecent assaults; and forced viewing of pornography
  • using coercion and threats- telling the person she/he, the children, pets or property will be hurt or taken away
  • using intimidation - making a person afraid by using looks, actions or gestures
  • psychological/emotional/verbal abuse - using words and other strategies to insult, threaten, degrade, abuse or denigrate the victim
  • using children, for example, by making the other parent feel guilty about the children; threatening to take the children away, or to report the partner to child protection authorities
  • preventing the partner from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; controlling what the partner does, who they see or talk to, what they read and where they go
  • economic abuse - controlling and withholding access to family resources such as money and property.

Relationships Australia works with people who have experienced violence and used violence in their relationships. You can learn how to handle conflict more effectively and get support if violence is used in your relationship. Phone 1300 364 277 for more details.

Relationships Australia State and Territory websites

The views or opinions expressed in this information are general in nature and do not constitute professional advice. You may benefit from professional help to deal with individual and complex issues.