What is Domestic and Family Violence?

For some people Domestic and Family Violence may be perceived as a private family issue, but it is unfortunately a wide reaching community issue. Domestic Violence occurs within all cultures, demographics, socio-economic and age groups, within intimate personal relationships including same sex relationships. It affects the physical health, emotional wellbeing, learning capacity, productivity and ability to earn a living for thousands of women, children and men across Queensland every day.

Domestic Violence is often thought of as physical abuse of a woman by her male partner.  Sadly there is physical violence and much more that needs to be understood about the true nature of Domestic Violence.

  • Domestic Violence occurs when someone in an intimate relationship uses FEAR to CONTROL their partner on an ongoing basis.


  • Domestic Violence is about the ABUSE of POWER by one person over another in that relationship.


  • Domestic Violence is GENDERED in nature, in that it is mainly perpetrated against women and their children by men.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Family Violence

As well as spousal abuse (intimate partner violence), the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) legislates against Family Violence between adult family members within the immediate or extended family. However, Family Violence does not always include the elements of fear and control that are present in Domestic Violence within Intimate Personal Relationships. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities generally refer to the violence within their intimate relationships and wider families as Family Violence.

Carer Relationships

Legislation also affords protection victims within Informal Care Relationships, where a person providing unpaid care to another misuses the imbalance of power in that relationship to control, abuse and instil fear in the one they have volunteered to care for.

Elder Abuse

Domestic and Family Violence towards older people includes any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person and is referred to as Elder Abuse. The most common forms of elder abuse include physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and neglect .

Source: DVConnect

For more info visit dvconnect.com.au

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)  is a fundamental violation of human rights and involves an exploitation of power imbalances. It is predominantly perpetrated by men against women, and their children, and is where one person uses a pattern of abusive and/or coercive behaviour and/or pursuit in order to control and dominate the other both in a relationship and after separation. This behaviour often repeats, may escalate, and can result in death. The most commonly acknowledged forms of IPV are physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional and social abuse and economic deprivation. The consequence of this behaviour instils fear for personal safety and/or wellbeing, and traumatises women and children.

Unveiling a multimillion-dollar strategy to combat domestic violence, Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says that 'Women must be respected’.

“Disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespect. Disrespecting women is unacceptable, it is unacceptable at every level … we have to make it as though it was ‘un-Australian’ to disrespect women. We must become a country which is known for its respect for women”, says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, 25 September 2015. Courtesy ABC News 24.

While there are very distinct kinds of abuse, a perpetrator of violence is likely to use some or all of them in conjunction to create isolation feelings of anticipatory fear and anxiety. For example, verbal abuse may escalate to physical or sexual abuse, while the mentally abusive undertones develop stronger holds on the victim. Or, for another example, financial abuse may lead to isolation. Women often describe feelings of constant worry and wondering what the mood of the person will be.

Types of Abuse

Any relationship (including family relationships) where another person is abusive, violent, intimidating, threatening, or is making you feel scared is considered domestic violence. Domestic violence is not part of a loving and caring relationship, is wrong, and is against the law. Awareness of exactly what is domestic violence is the first step to understanding the depth of it grip on the women and children who experience it.

Take the Questionnaire Does He, Or Has He Ever?

Power and Control VS Equality

At WAVSS, we understand that each violent situation is as unique as the people involved, and we dedicate our time and resources to prioritising safety at the forefront, and providing ongoing support to help our clients strengthen self-confidence and to reclaim their power back.

The graphic above has been adapted from the widely recognised Duluth Model 'Power and Control' and 'Equality' wheels. Click on them for the full resolution image.

Warning Signs     |     Taking Stock

Violence tends to follow a cycle of repeating incidents that increase in frequency and intensity over time (this is the most common pattern). The cycle outlines a set of six phases which describe the repeated behaviours prior to and after the violent incident, intended to dis-empower and confuse women (moving between love and fear), lulling them into the false belief, or hope that it wont happen again.


The cycle can vary in relationships and change over time. For example, the honeymoon phase may not exist for some. Other relationship cycles consist of only the build-up and stand-over phases.

The Cycle of Abuse

The Infographic 'The Cycle of Abuse' has been adapted from a multitude of different sources, the main source being: “Something’s Wrong at My House”: Children in Domestic Violence Workbook: Dept of family services and aboriginal and islander affairs (QLD) 1989. Relationships Australia QLD – DV Men’s Group April 97

Phases of the Cycle

“If it’s as bad as she says, why doesn’t she leave?”

People often wonder why women stay in or return to abusive/violent relationships. From an outsider's point of view it can be difficult to understand why she doesn't just leave. Leaving any relationship can be hard to do and emotionally draining. Leaving a relationship that involves, control, violence, fear and an imbalance of power requires accessing all personal resources available and often requires external support as real safety risks are involved.

Why Do Women Stay?

Ask yourself if, by abusing you, the children’s mother, how is he being “good to the kids”? Showing attention or affection to his children cannot make up for denying them their right to a safe and happy childhood by scaring and scarring them with violence.

"He hits me, but he is good to the kids"

No matter how caring a parent you are, at some level your ability to do your best for your children will be affected by your partner’s violence. Sadly this is a time when your children are likely to need your care and attention more than ever. Until you can get the help you need to make yourself safe, your children cannot feel safe or happy knowing that their mother is being hurt.

Concern for the children is probably a major factor (if not the major factor) in whether you decide to separate, as it is for many women in abusive relationships. It is likely to be confusing and difficult for you to weigh up which situation is best for your children. You may have thought:

"He says he will get custody of the kids” ... "Can I offer the kids anything better?" ... "Are we in more danger if we leave?" ... "How can I take them away from their dad, whom they love, their home, their pets, their school?"

If you are living with an abusive partner:

  • If you are gong to be able to help your kids, you need to get help too. There is a variety of services available for support and help.


  • Even though your children may not have been in the room, they will have been able to sense the atmosphere, so if you can, explain to them what is happening


  • Let them know it is not their role to protect you


  • Let them know that you want to know how they feel


  • Assure them that feeling frightened, angry, confused or sad is normal in this situation


  • Find a trustworthy, sympathetic adult that the kids can talk to (ie. school counsellor, relative etc.)

If you have separated, or are leaving the situation, you can:

  • Seek counselling and support groups for yourself and your children


  • Encourage your children to talk about how they are feeling


  • If you leave your home, take favourite toys and some of your children’s other items


  • Seek parenting support


  • Contact Domestic Violence and / or legal services


  • Tell your children of your plans for the future


  • Seek legal advice. The Family Law Act now considered the witnessing of domestic violence as harmful to the children.

Leaving A Violent Relationship Is Difficult

The decision to leave an abusive relationship is an extremely difficult one, particularly when children are involved. Some women endure the abuse “for the sake of the children”. They are concerned about depriving the children of their father, and of not being able to afford necessities on a pension.

Many women also fear violent reprisal if they leave the relationships, retaliation aimed at them through the children, the loss of their home and the worry of “going it alone”. Sometimes abusive fathers seek and are awarded residence orders with their children, or use contact visits as an opportunity to inflict further abuse against both mother and child.

Relationship Rights

As a human being, you have personal rights to bring you joy, keep you safe and give you empowerment.

Human Rights

  • The right to be safe
  • The right to be free of fear – especially within intimate relationships
  • The right to have basic needs met – survival needs and needs for love, worth, freedom and fun
  • The right to hold and express his / her own opinions and beliefs, including political and religious beliefs, so long as the expression of those opinions and the practice of those beliefs do not violate any other person’s human rights
  • The right to make his / her own decisions about his / her own life and lifestyle

No-one has the right to ...

  • Harm another person or threaten his / her safety
  • Cause another person to live in fear
  • Cause another person to be deprived of his / her needs
  • Dictate how another person may think or believe or how another person may express thoughts and beliefs
  • Dictate how another person will live and conduct his / her own life

Credit: Christine Toussaint, 1992

Family violence hurts kids too … even if they don’t see it. In homes where violence occurs, children are at high risk of suffering psychological and emotional abuse, whether or not they are physically abused themselves. Evidence clearly shows that living in a family where a parent is being abused has significant traumatic effects on children.

Children & Young People

Even when they do not observe the violence, children are usually aware that it is occurring. They are alert to the obvious tension, fear and distress in their parents.  Their home, instead of being a place of security, is characterised by cruelty and fear. The longer the situation goes on, the harder it is to undo its damaging effects on children’s development.

“Witnessing” family violence is much more than physically observing the violence. Research has shown that it may also include:

Hearing the violence.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Sensing their mother’s fear.

Using the child as hostage or means of ensuring the mother’s return home.

Forcing a child to watch/participate assaults.

Interrogating / involving the child in spying on their mother.

Attempting to break down the mother-child bond by telling the child that their parents would be together; if not for the mother’s behaviour.

Undermining the mother by encouraging negative opinions of her ability, appearance and so on.

Having familiar belongings or pets destroyed.

As direct victims of

physical and emotional abuse

Children may therefore experience abuse at a number of levels:

Men who abuse their partners often abuse children too. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children is more likely to occur in a home where one adult is violent towards the other, than in non-violent homes.

As indirect victims of physical injury

Children may be hurt when attempting to protect their mother or when struck by a weapon or thrown object. Infants can be hurt if their mother is holding them when the abuser strikes out. Unborn infants can be harmed when violence is directed at pregnant women.

As victims of emotional

& psychological trauma

This trauma has been likened to Post Traumatic Stress associated with more general violence in the community. However, the effects can be far worse when the severity is unacknowledged due to a reluctance on the part of the victims and others who are aware of the violence to disclose abuse, and a subsequent tendency to minimise it due to a fear the child will be removed from the mother’s care.

As of 2012, the Australian Institute of Criminology, and ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety) reported that 61% of women who had experienced domestic violence had children in their care when such violence occurred, and 41% said that the children had seen or heard the incident.

Understanding Impacts

Children learn significant messages about behaviour and gender roles from parents who are role models. When exposed to family violence, they may incorporate this behaviour in their relationships and activities as children and later as adults, resulting in an intergenerational pattern of violence.

Regardless of whether a child is a direct victim or an indirect victims, any exposure to abuse will result in tremendous emotional abuse. There are a number of risks for children who are living in Domestic Violence situations.

“Dad was always nagging at her and she was hardly ever happy. Plus he used to hit mum and make her cry … They hardly ever talked. I could just tell they weren’t happy”

“I used to get a pain in the stomach when he came home ... I couldn't go to sleep at night ... I was scared of something but I didn't know what"

How Children Can Be Helped

The effects on individual children are not irreversible if early and effective intervention occurs. Greater awareness has resulted in increased research on and counselling services for children who have or are suffering the trauma of domestic violence.

Individual and group work with children who have witnessed or experienced violence (once they are safe from violent situations) generally involves addressing the following issues:

  • Realisation of and reinforcing that they are not alone
  • Encouraging the identification, discussion and constructive expression of painful feelings; such as anger, fear and guilt
  • Promoting the understanding that family violence is an adult problem, and that it is not their fault or responsibility
  • Learning that violence is unacceptable behaviour. Presentation of alternatives to violence
  • Development of positive images of men and women, and learning what equality is in relationships
  • Providing the opportunity to connect with positive male role models
  • Teaching non-violent problem solving techniques
  • Dealing with their ambivalence and self-blame
  • Recognition of their rights and responsibilities
  • Providing experiences for the development of healthy self-esteem
  • Encouraging and supporting the grieving over losses that result from leaving home, pets, friends, school and the trust and security they have yearned for and which their father has not provided
  • Assistance to deal with powerful mixed and confused feelings towards their father

Expressing Feelings

Children experience powerful mixed and confusing feelings that may be difficult for them to articulate. Counselling is a safe place for young people to express and come to terms with their thoughts and feelings. Learning how to talk to your child/ren about such issues can not only help the post-trauma healing process, it can create a powerful bond between you. 'Feeling Faces' is a list of some thoughts and feelings children may experience, and how you can recognise, encourage and/or talk about such experiences.


At WAVSS, we respect both men and women as equal members of society. Domestic violence affects everyone involved, which is why we work closely with partner agencies, including male-focused, to help provide a well-rounded support network.

We recognise that Domestic and Family Violence occurs in many and all types of relationships. The information provided here can be understood in terms of; both male and female perpetrators, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships, and across all cultures, religions, and age groups and/or age differences. Even children and young people can be considered a perpetrator of Domestic Violence within the family – though usually in this scenario, there may be underlying issues, such as health issues, bullying, etc. contributing to such behaviour.

However, it is a sad fact that a majority of all domestic violence related incidences are perpetrated by men against women and children – it is a fundamentally gendered issue. And so, to respect the victims and acknowledge the statistics as they stand, we will refer to the perpetrator as ‘he’ and the victim as ‘she’.

The information and resources available here may be read by anyone who wishes to understand and comprehend the nature of domestic violence.

“Between 17 September 2013 and 16 September 2014, the aggrieved was a woman in 15,656 protection orders, while the aggrieved was a man in 4,486 protection orders. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2012 Personal Safety Survey indicates that one in five women over the age of 15 has experienced sexual violence, compared with one in 22 men. One in six Australian women has experienced physical abuse by a current or former partner compared with one in 19 men. One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse in an intimate relationship compared with one in seven men.”

(Taskforce Report, Not Now, Not Ever, pg. 050)

Responsible Men Program

Responsible Men is a Domestic & Family Violence (DFV) intervention (behaviour change) program for men who use domestic violence. This program focuses on how men can take responsibility to change their behaviour and decision making without using violence, and how to use this knowledge to make positive changes for healthy and safe relationships.

Responsible Men is a partnership program with YFS and WAVSS, based in Logan and the Redlands. See flyer below, click to view larger size, or give WAVSS a call for more information.

White Ribbon is a national, male led campaign to end men’s violence against women. The International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, also known as ‘White Ribbon Day’, is observed on November 25th.

DV Connect Mensline (10am-6.00pm)

1800 600 636



Mensline Australia (24hr)

1300 789 978



YFS (Family Violence)

3826 1500


Contacts for Men
White Ribbon

The White Ribbon Oath is an appeal to Australians to swear by the following:

I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This is my oath.

p: (07) 3808 5566

e: reception@wavss.org

Copyright © 2015, Edited Sept 2015