Domestic and family violence

Mother and her 3 children on a bridge looking at the riverMake your Mission an Australia free from violence

For many of us it may be inconceivable that Domestic and Family violence (DFV), is anywhere near us. But the reality is it is likely to be in every suburb in Australia.

It doesn’t discriminate, it can affect women, men and children of all ages of any cultural heritage and it has a terrible and lasting impact on individuals and communities.

Is it really a big problem in Australia? Yes, it is.

White Ribbon Australia, a national campaign to end domestic violence believes it is at epidemic levels and it is currently the leading cause of homelessness in Australia. In fact:

  • One woman every week is killed by a current or former partner 1
  • More than 1 million Australian children are affected by DFV each year 2
  • Indigenous males are 4 x more likely to be victims of family violence than non-Indigenous males 3
  • Intimate partner violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44 4
  • The rate of domestic assault reported to police is 6 x higher for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women 5

Find Help

If you, or someone you know are in crisis encourage them to call Lifeline Line on 13 11 14. If you think their, yours or the life of any other person in the family is in danger, the best thing to do is to call 000.

What can we do to take a stand against DFV?

Know the signs

Recognise domestic violence when you see it.  Domestic violence may involve lots of different types 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 and forced sleep deprivation.

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

Sexual abuse - any form of sexual activity without consent, causing pain during sex, assaulting the genitals, coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, criticising, or using sexually degrading insults.

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.

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 family member, parent or spouse.

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.

Economic abuse - complete control of all monies, no access to bank accounts, providing only an inadequate ‘allowance’.

Know how to respond

It can be hard to know what to say to a person experiencing domestic violence but there are a few really effective things you can do;

Listen – Being listened to can be an empowering experience for a person who has been affected. Give them space to tell their story and be empathetic and compassionate.

Validate and believe them – Often people are not confident to tell their story in case they are not believed. You can help a person feel stronger by showing you believe what they say, no matter what they share.

Be clear that they are not to blame - People who are experiencing Domestic and family violence can often feel incredibly scared and unsure of themselves. You can say things like ‘Violence is unacceptable; you do not deserve to be treated this way.’ Avoid asking   ‘Why don’t you leave?’
 ‘What could you have done to avoid this situation?’  ‘Why did they hit you?’ as this might suggest they could control the violence by managing their behaviour.

Above all, help them seek help – You don’t need to try to fix the situation or be a counsellor. Refer them to services who can support them or help them access a great list of supports in each state by going on to the White Ribbon Australia Website.

What's happening in your State

All State Governments are finding ways to create awareness and support services for people who need them today and every day of the year. The Council of Australian Governments has a National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children.

Find out more about what's happening in your state:

More information

Visit the White Ribbon website

Remember, if you, or someone you know are in crisis, encourage them to call Lifeline Line on 13 11 14.

If you think their, yours or the life of any other person in the family is in danger, the best thing to do is to call 000.

1 Australian Institute of Criminology – Homicide in Australia: 2008–09 to 2009–10. National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report
2 UNSW. The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children: A Literature Review
3/5 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
4 Vic Health. The health costs of violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence

Want to learn more?

For more information, download our research into families and children.

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Founding Purpose - 'Inspired by Jesus Christ, Mission Australia exists to meet human need and to spread the knowledge of the love of God'