What is domestic violence?

By  ReachOut     |    Updated: 28th April, 2017    |    4 min read

Domestic violence, which is also known as intimate partner violence, is a form of violence that can occur within any relationship. There are many different types of domestic violence, including social, physical and emotional. Finding out how you can keep yourself safe and organisations that can help you are important steps.

 This might help if you:
  • Are in an abusive relationship
  • Don’t know what to do about it
  • Don’t know where to go
  • Don’t know what your rights are
  • Need to know where to get help

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, happens in many forms including physical, emotional and economic violence, and can affect people of any age. It does not have to be within the home to be classified as domestic violence. It is a form of violence that can occur within any relationship (family or intimate partner). Domestic violence is about power and control and there are many ways this control can be expressed.

If someone is hurting you it can be very scary and it may be hard to know how you can stop it. It is important to remember that no one has the right to be violent towards you and there are people out there who can help. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

Types of intimate partner violence

Below are some of the forms that domestic violence may take.

Physical – If someone is hurting you, or threatening to hurt you, a loved one or a pet, then you will need to take some action. For more information about what physical abuse is, see ‘What is physical abuse?’

Emotional – This form of violence is often unrecognised and can be very hurtful. To find out more about emotional abuse, read ‘What is emotional abuse?’

Economic – Having money and being able to make decisions about it, is one means of being independent. If someone is controlling your money, keeping you financially dependent, or making you ask for money unreasonably, then this is a form of violence

Social – Social violence occurs in relationships that often include other forms of violence. If someone is insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, controlling what you do and where you go, then they are being violent and you may need to take some action

Spiritual – This type of violence involves a situation where you are not allowed to have your own opinions about religion, cultural beliefs, and values, or your spirituality is manipulated to keep you feeling powerless.

How can I keep myself safe?

At times we underestimate the amount of danger we are in, either because we don’t realise or don’t understand how dangerous a situation is. Part of an abuser’s control can be minimising the seriousness of what they are doing. Being safe is important and there are things you can do to ensure your safety.
Sometimes it is hard to work out the danger or risks yourself. Police, and the state and territory support lines can help you work out risks and how to stay safe.

Steps to ensure your safety:

  • Is there immediate danger? How likely is it that someone will hurt you? If necessary, you may have to move to somewhere safe. See ‘What should I do’ for detailed info
  • Do you have support? Making a decision to leave a situation where you feel unsafe may be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, counsellor or youth worker
  • Talk to the police: If you feel unsafe the police are good people to talk to. If you or someone you know has been hurt, the police will be able to help
  • Believe in yourself: If someone is hurting you or threatening to, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember it is never okay for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you
  • Know your rights: It may be a good idea to check out your legal rights. Laws vary from state to state. To find out about your rights check out the Lawstuff website.

Helpful organisations

There are a range of organisations in every state and territory that are available to help you. View available support services here. You can also try ReachOut NextStep it can help you figure out what support options are best for you, making help-seeking a bit easier.

What can I do now?

Also check the related topics:  

Domestic violence

Factsheet provided by ReachOut


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