Family Law Blog

Domestic and family violence – It’s not just physical

Posted by Karina Ralston on 25 Nov 2015

In recent years there has been increasing awareness about domestic and family violence, and its prevalence within our society. It’s now recognised that domestic and family violence goes beyond physical violence to encompass various types of behaviours.

Although experienced by both men and women, women are more likely to be the victims of violence then men. Domestic violence is a common issue in marital separation however, ending a relationship doesn’t always stop the violence. In other situations the breakdown of a relationship can be the trigger for one party to become violent.

The increasing awareness around domestic violence and numerous matters citing allegations of family violence resulted in significant changes being made to the Family Law Act in July 2012. These changes significantly broadened the definition of ‘abuse’ and ‘family violence’ to reflect that family violence encompasses:

  • Physical assault (including punching, hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, choking, or the use of weapons)
  • Sexual assault (being forced to have sex or participate in sexual activities, either by watching or participating)
  • Emotional abuse (making you feel worthless, criticising your personality, your looks, the way you dress, constantly putting you down, threatening to hurt you, your children or your pets)
  • Verbal abuse (including yelling, shouting, name-calling and swearing at you)
  • Social abuse (being stopped from seeing friends and family, isolating you socially or geographically)
  • Damaging property such as furniture, the house or pets in order to threaten or intimidate you
  • Financial abuse (taking control of the money, not giving you enough money to survive on, forcing you to hand over your money, not letting you have a say in how it is spent).

Prior to amendments "Family Violence" was defined by the Family Law Act as "conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards the property of, a member of the person's family that causes that or any other member of the person's family reasonably to fear for, or reasonably to be apprehensive about, his or her personal wellbeing or safety."

The amended definition is more succinct, classifying family violence as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member) or causes the family member to be fearful,” the definition then goes on to set out a list of examples of what can include domestic violence and examples of situations that may constitute a child being exposed to domestic violence.

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, or are concerned that you may be at risk of family violence, it is important that you seek assistance. You can contact our office for further information or call the Domestic Violence Hotline 24-hours a day on 1800 656 463.