Types of domestic and family violence

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Types of domestic and family violence

  • The term 'domestic and family violence' means any ongoing acts used to exert power and control;
  • People who use domestic or family violence could be partners, spouses, carers or family members;
  • Domestic and family violence are crimes and are always the fault of the offender;
  • Domestic and family violence consists of sexual, psychological, physical, spiritual, financial and social abuse against another person;
  • There is help available for people experiencing domestic and family violence
  • There are options to increase safety even while experiencing violence.

What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence are broad terms covering a range of different behaviours. Importantly, domestic and family violence is a crime for which offenders are solely responsible.

There are many names used to mean domestic and/or family violence. Some people talk about partner violence, intimate partner violence, DV, spousal abuse, wife beating, child abuse, or incest.

We use the term domestic and family violence to describe a range of behaviours that are used by a person to dominate and control another, using tactics that include violence, manipulation, stalking, gaslighting and more.

'Domestic violence' usually refers to violence between people who are in an intimate or dating relationship (or who have previously been).

The broader term 'family violence' refers to violence between people who have a family relationship eg. brother, sister, cousin, parent, grandparent, etc. Family violence is the preferred term in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in which close relationships and kinship relationships extend far beyond the nuclear family.

Types of violence

Coercion and control

Coercion and control (sometimes called coercive control) is a pattern of behaviours directed at a person or group of people to control and dominate them.

Coercion and control behaviours include belittling, demeaning, undermining, threats, intimidation, social isolation, financial abuse, and monitoring movements online and offline.

Most domestic and family violence is coercive control. It is ongoing, cumulative, chronic and routine.


Gaslighting is a common form of coercive control. It is a type of psychological manipulation in which an offender sows seeds of doubt and confusion. It causes the individual to question their own memory, thoughts, and even sanity.

Psychological violence

Psychological violence behaviour includes intimidation, humiliation, emotional blackmail, abusing pets, gaslighting, threatening to 'out' someone’s sexuality, transgender or intersex status and more. It also includes the effects of financial, social and other non-physical forms of violence.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is any form of pressured/unwanted sexual activity or sexual degradation. It includes rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, forced prostitution, human trafficking, image-based abuse, reproductive coercion (e.g. controlling contraception, preventing or forcing an abortion).

Financial abuse

Financial abuse includes controlling access to finances. Examples of this are welfare theft (taking money from Centrelink or other agencies), preventing someone from working or studying, and dowry-related abuse.

It is common for people who experience financial abuse to have problems with debt and abuse of credit (eg. an abuser using credit cards to run up debt, or obtaining lines of credit in someone else's name).

Social violence

Social violence can include controlling or isolating a partner or family member from their family, friends or community. It might also include limiting social activities and relationships with friends and family, and their partner or family member from accessing support.

Offenders might undermine their partner or family member's other relationships by repeating gossip, outing their sexuality to their friends/relatives, or trying to alienate them from other people by making up lies or accusations.

Spiritual violence

Spiritual violence might include preventing someone from practicing their faith or culture. An abuser might ridicule spiritual beliefs and/or manipulate religious and spiritual teachings or cultural traditions to excuse their violence.

Some offenders use scripture to control an individual's clothing and appearance, rights and responsibilities in the home. They might use religion or culture to demand sexual acts, or excuse their controlling and abusive behaviour.

Physical violence

Physical violence mean any assault on the body including but not limited to slapping, hitting, punching, pushing, choking, sleep and food deprivation, burns and use of weapons.

Technology facilitated violence

Technology violence might include the use of text, email, phone to abuse, monitor, humiliate or punish. Offenders might make threats to distribute private or sexual photos or videos.

Useful links:

Getting help

If you think you might be experiencing some of these behaviours, you could be experiencing domestic and/or family violence. Many support services are available.

You can discuss how to keep yourself safer and how to manage the impacts of violence with our trained counsellors.

Get in touch:

NSW Rape Crisis
For anyone in NSW impacted by sexual assault (including friends, families and supporters). Available 24/7.
Sexual Assault Counselling Australia
For adult survivors of childhood institutional sexual abuse. Supporting anyone accessing the Redress Scheme and alternative compensation. Available 24/7.
Domestic Violence Impact Line
For anyone in Australia whose life has been impacted by domestic or family violence. Available 24/7.
LGBTIQ+ Violence Service
For anyone from the LGBTIQ+ community whose life has been impacted by sexual domestic and/or family violence. Available 24/7.
Online counselling
Online counselling is also available 24/7.