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Anyone can experience abusive behaviour in their personal or family relationships

If you’re experiencing abuse in a relationship, the Victorian Government’s Victims of Crime Helpline is available to all Victorians. We can offer confidential advice, information and connections to the right services to help you.

Every year we help thousands of people of different ages, genders, sexualities and backgrounds who have experienced threatening, abusive or violent behaviour in their personal and family relationships. 

Find out how we can help you.

This page:

  • explains that abusive behaviour can happen in many different personal and family relationships
  • gives examples of abusive behaviour
  • explains the physical and emotional effects of an abusive relationship
  • explains what to do if you’re experiencing abuse in a personal or family relationship.

Abuse happens in many different personal and family relationships

Abusive behaviour can happen in many different personal and family relationships.

It can happen:

  • in a de-facto relationship, civil union or marriage
  • between boyfriends, girlfriends or partners
  • between parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents
  • between people with a disability and their carer
  • between older people and their carer
  • between people in a 'family-like' relationship, according to traditions or social practices.

It can happen to anyone

Abusive personal and family relationships can affect anyone regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, ability or culture.

Types of abuse, violence and control in relationships

Abuse in relationships isn’t just physical. There are many different ways that a family member, partner or ex-partner can be abusive, violent or controlling. Things like financial pressures, drug and alcohol use, and mental illness can influence the way the person behaves toward you.

Below are some examples of these types of behaviour. You may be experiencing family violence if similar things have happened to you.

Psychological abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse is behaviour that intimidates or harasses you. It’s often one part of a pattern of controlling behaviour.

The abusive person may:

  • prevent you from making or keeping connections with your family or friends
  • constantly ask where you are or what you’re doing
  • use intimidating body language like angry looks or a raised voice
  • threaten to harm your children, extended family members or pets
  • humiliate, threaten or insult you
  • constantly criticise you
  • destroy or threaten to destroy your important or sentimental possessions
  • drive recklessly with you in the car
  • persistently contact you with phone calls, text messages or emails
  • persistently contact you on social media
  • repeatedly follow you
  • loiter near your workplace or other places that you often visit.

Violence can take particular forms in culturally diverse communities.

The abusive person may:

  • accuse you of abandoning your culture
  • prevent you from expressing your cultural identity
  • threaten to harm someone in your family in Australia or in your country of origin
  • hide or destroy important legal papers, such as your passport or your children’s passports or birth certificates
  • blame you for breaking up the family and community if you leave
  • threaten that you will be deported if you call the police or support services.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community may also experience unique types of abuse.

The abusive person may:

  • refuse to support, or completely reject your gender identity or sexuality
  • prevent you from expressing your gender identity or sexuality
  • threaten to ‘out’ your sexuality to your family or friends
  • tell you you’ll lose custody of your children as a result of being ‘outed’
  • control or restrict your access to medication
  • threaten to disclose your HIV status to your family or friends 
  • tell you that you deserve the abuse because you are same sex attracted, gender diverse or intersex
  • use other people’s homophobia and transphobia as a tool to control you, for example telling you the police or support services won’t help you because the system is homophobic and transphobic.

If your partner, ex-partner, carer or another person in your family behaves like this, you may be experiencing family violence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, there are services for everyone to get the support they need. Contact us to find out what’s available for you.

The Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

 

Verbal abuse

The abusive person may:

  • scream, shout or swear at you
  • call you names or use put-downs to make you feel worthless
  • constantly criticise the decisions that you make
  • repeatedly taunt you
  • ridicule you, including for your religious beliefs, culture, sexuality or gender identity.

If your partner, ex-partner, carer or another person in your family behaves like this, you may be experiencing family violence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, there are services for everyone to get the support they need. Contact us to find out what’s available for you.

The Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

 

Physical and sexual violence

Physical and sexual violence can range in severity and frequency, and may increase over time.

The abusive person may:

  • pull your hair
  • push and shove you
  • pinch, slap, hit or punch you
  • try to strangle you
  • pressure or force you to have sex when you don’t want to.

If your partner, ex-partner, carer or another person in your family behaves like this, you may be experiencing family violence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, there are services for everyone to get the support they need. Contact us to find out what’s available for you.

The Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

 

Financial and economic abuse

The abusive person may use money as a way to control you.

They may:

  • take full control of all the finances, spending and decisions about money so that you are financially dependent on them
  • prevent you from working so that you are financially dependent on them
  • deny you access to money
  • provide inadequate resources for you to live on
  • demand that you show how every cent is spent
  • incur traffic and parking fines when using your car
  • organise loans for cars, mortgages and credit cards in your name
  • threaten to have electricity, gas and water disconnected
  • coerce you to enter into high risk financial situations, such as using your house as security for a loan.

If your partner, ex-partner, carer or another person in your family behaves like this, you may be experiencing family violence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, there are services for everyone to get the support they need. Please contact us to find out what’s available for you.

The Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

 

Abuse using technology

Technology can be used as a tool to harass or control you.

The abusive person may:

  • make threatening or abusive phone calls
  • send threatening or abusive text messages and emails
  • check or hack your email or social media accounts
  • monitor your internet or phone use
  • track your location through apps, geotagged photographs, or ‘find my phone’ services
  • spread rumours about you online
  • impersonate you online
  • harass or threaten you, your friends or other family members on social networking sites
  • post or distribute ‘revenge porn’ (false, humiliating, intimate or sexualised videos or photos) without your consent.

If your partner, ex-partner or another person in your family behaves like this, you may be experiencing family violence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, there are services for everyone to get the support they need. Please contact us to find out what’s available for you.

The Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

How family violence can make you feel

There are many different ways that an abusive relationship with a partner, ex-partner or other family member can make you feel. Ongoing abuse can have serious impacts on your mental and physical health.

Mentally

You may notice some changes in your behaviour. For example you might:

  • feel nervous or ‘on edge’ when you’re around the abusive person
  • startle easily
  • feel constantly alert
  • have difficulty sleeping
  • have recurring thoughts or nightmares about traumatic things that have happened to you
  • have trouble concentrating at school, university or work
  • feel cut off or detached from friends and family
  • feel helpless
  • have low self esteem or self worth.

These changes may be effects of the abuse on your mental health. 

You may have also experienced:

  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • depression
  • eating disorders
  • self-harming
  • suicidal thoughts.

Physically

There may be physical impacts from the abuse. You may have experienced:

  • head, face and neck injuries
  • various injuries to your body
  • sexually transmitted diseases.

The stress and anxiety of experiencing family violence may also have a physical impact.

You may have experienced:

  • upset stomach
  • headaches and migraines
  • insomnia
  • weight gain or loss.

If you are experiencing changes to your behaviour or health because of family violence, you can contact the Victims of Crime Helpline for judgement-free advice, information and connections to services that can help you.

The Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

What you can do

Contacting the Victims of Crime Helpline is the first step to get information, advice and connections to services to help you manage the effects of family violence.

Each year we help thousands of people of different ages, genders, and backgrounds that have experienced family violence. Please contact us to find out how we can help you. Even if you’re not sure of what you need or what’s available, we can help you with what to do next. 

We’re a confidential, respectful and inclusive service.

Contact the Victims of Crime Helpline

Open: 8am-11pm every day
Call: 1800 819 817
Text: 0427 767 891
Email: vsa@justice.vic.gov.au

We are interpreter and National Relay Service friendly.

Report family violence to the police

All family violence is unacceptable and police take every complaint seriously. In some cases charges may be laid where criminal forms of family violence (such as threats, physical violence, sexual abuse, stalking or property damage) have occurred.

If you’re ready to think about contacting the police, find out what the police can do if you report family violence.

Your safety

Your safety is important, and there are things that can be done to help improve it.

Read more about making a safety plan or improving your online safety.   

Apply for an intervention order

An intervention order is a court order made by a magistrate. It can help protect you and your family from the abusive person.
Intervention orders have rules about how the abusive person can behave towards you. They must follow the conditions of the order. If they don’t, police can take action.

Find out how to apply for an intervention order.

 

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The content on this page was developed in response to recommendation 180 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria). It will be continually updated and enhanced to reflect reform in Victoria’s family violence service system.