Anyone can experience abusive behaviour in their relationships. Recognising abuse and finding out what to do are important first steps you can take to protect your safety and that of other family members who may also be affected.
The Victims of Crime Helpline can connect you with services or you can use this website to learn more about the justice system in Victoria and what to do next.
What is family violence?
Family violence is a pattern of behaviour where one person tries to control or scare another person. It is a form of abuse that can happen in many different types of relationships.
Family violence can be physical violence, but it can also be other behaviours such as:
- psychological or emotional abuse that aims to intimidate you or control your behaviour
- verbal abuse, such as shouting, threats or insults
- sexual abuse where the person tries to pressure or force you to have sex when you do not want to
- financial or economic abuse, where the person tries to use money to control you
- abuse using technology to threaten, embarrass or monitor you
- mistreatment and neglect, where a person who cares for you does not provide proper care or the things you need for day to day living
- social abuse, where the person tries (or threatens) to cut you off from family, friends or your community.
You can find out more about recognising violence and abuse in families and relationships.
You may also find the following information useful:
Free support across Victoria
The Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817 is available every day between 8am to 11pm to provide information, advice and support to anyone who is experiencing violence or abuse in their family or personal relationships in Victoria.
Every year the helpline assists thousands of people of different ages, genders and backgrounds who have experienced threatening, abusive or violent behaviour in their personal and family relationships.
You can talk to the helpline:
- after you have reported family violence to the police
- if you are thinking about reporting to police
- if you do not want to involve the police yet, but do want to find out about other ways to improve your safety.
When you contact the helpline, a Victims Support Officer can discuss your situation with you and advise on assistance and support services you can access.
The helpline may also be able to organise a support worker from the Victims Assistance Program who can:
- provide advice about reporting family violence to the police and other agencies
- connect you with other services that can help
- explain steps you can take to help improve your safety, including making a safety plan
- assist you to apply for financial assistance.
Understanding the traumatic effects of family violence and psychological abuse
Dealing with violence and abuse in a close relationship can be very stressful and frightening.
Everyone's response is different, but it can be helpful to understand the common feelings and physical reactions people have and what to expect.
On this website you can learn about:
- emotional and mental effects of family violence and abuse
- physical effects of abuse and family violence.
Whether it is just after the crime, or you are dealing with ongoing effects on your health and wellbeing, counselling is available. The Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817 can connect you to services that can help.
Help to understand the justice process
The Victims of Crime Helpline can answer your questions about:
- the justice process and what to expect
- getting information about the court case
- giving evidence as a witness and support that is available for you if you need to go to court
- preparing a Victim Impact Statement to tell the court how the crime affected you
- getting information about the offender if they are sentenced to prison from the Victims Register.
You can learn more about family violence and the justice process below.
Reporting family violence
If anyone is in immediate danger or a crime is currently occurring, please call police on Triple Zero (000). You can also go to your local police station to report a crime.
What will happen if family violence is reported?
Police take all reports of family violence seriously. When family violence is reported to police, they will:
- respond as a priority
- make sure you and your children are safe immediately (this may include removing the abusive person)
- assess the risks and threats
- organise any immediate help that is needed (for example, call an ambulance or interpreter)
- get as much information as possible
- tell you about keeping any physical evidence
- make sure there is someone who can support you.
Your safety and protection
The top priority for police when responding to a report of family violence is safety.
The police will ensure your safety by:
- removing the abusive person in some circumstances
- referring you to a service that can support you
- referring you to emergency accommodation if it's not safe to stay in your home, and you want to go
- help you safely leave the premises
- if necessary, stay at the scene until you and your family members can be removed from risk.
Police assess the risk to you by considering issues such as:
- the level of fear experienced by you
- the level and nature of violence
- the likelihood that the incident will escalate
- the presence of children
- the presence of or access to firearms or other weapons
- any threat of suicide or murder
- the vulnerability of those involved (for example, pregnancy or recent separation)
- any history of family violence.
This will also help police decide how best to keep you and your family safe in the future.
Evidence that may be needed
As a victim or witness, you may be asked to give a detailed statement about what happened.
Police may also ask for your cooperation to record evidence at the scene of any violence or take property as evidence.
Because family violence is a pattern of behaviours, it can also be important to document the behaviour, if this is safe. If you find this difficult or distressing, you may wish to consider asking a trusted person to help you with this. Other people in your family can also be important witnesses for the police investigation and/or if a court case goes ahead.
Documenting the behaviour may include:
- photographs of injuries, damaged property or clothing or other effects of violence
- a log book of the abusive or violent behaviours
- communications such as voice mails, text messages, emails, letters, particularly if they are threatening
- medical records regarding any injuries the abusive person may have caused
- financial records if the abuse involves money.
If someone is charged
When family violence is reported, the accused person may be charged by police and the justice process will start.
This website explains the justice process in Victoria. You can learn about:
- police investigations
- how charges are laid
- what happens when a case goes to court
- what you need to do if you have to go to court
- what happens if an accused person is found guilty.
Mandatory reporting – protecting children from harm
In Victoria, police officers and other professionals such as medical practitioners, nurses and teachers, are legally required to report to child protection if they believe a child:
- has been or might be harmed because of physical or sexual abuse, and
- their parents or guardians have not protected them, are not able to protect them or are not likely to protect them.
This is called mandatory reporting.
All adults in the community have a responsibility to report child sexual abuse
Since 2014, there has been a law in Victoria called the failure to disclose offence. It means that you must report child sexual abuse if you:
- are an adult, and
- you come to a ‘reasonable belief’ that a sexual offence (sexual abuse) has been committed by an adult against a child under 16.
If this happens you must report your belief to the police, unless you have a reasonable excuse. If you do not, you may be charged with a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is three years imprisonment.
You can learn more about the failure to disclose offence on the Department of Justice and Community’s website.
Family violence intervention orders
The police may decide to apply for a family violence intervention order if the safety, welfare or property of a family member appears to be in danger.
Police may make an application for an intervention order even if you do not agree. The police officer will make it clear to the person who has used violence that applying for an intervention order is a police decision, not yours. Your children can be included on the intervention order, or in a safety notice, to make sure you are all safe.
You can also apply for an intervention order at a court, without police. You can:
- find out more about how to apply for an intervention order
- call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817 to get more information about this option.
If the police come to your house after hours or on the weekend they can issue a family violence safety notice, which has similar conditions to an intervention order. It lasts for 72 hours and acts as an application for an intervention order, which will go to court. A magistrate will then decide what happens next.
The person who has used violence must follow the rules of the intervention order or family violence safety notice. It is a criminal offence for someone to disobey an intervention order or family violence safety notice. If they are found guilty they could pay a fine or even go to jail.
Family violence services available to people in Victoria
24-hour service for women and children experiencing violence and abuse.
The Orange Door
A free service for adults, children and young people who are experiencing or have experienced family violence and people who need extra support with the care of children.
The service is gradually being rolled out across Victoria. Visit the Orange Door website to find a location near you
The national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service offering a phone and online chat service.
Domestic Violence Resource Centre
Information for people experiencing family violence.
Men's Referral Service (No to Violence)
Telephone counselling for men who use violence towards family members.
Find specialised support and assistance for specific groups