Most people think of domestic violence as either physical or sexual violence between two people living together, but this is actually only a small part of what constitutes domestic violence.

The government defines domestic violence as 'acts of violence that occur between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship' and this can include physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological abuse. To understand more about the different types of abuse, read our article by clicking on the blue button to the left. The government also notes that the 'central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear'. You can find those definitions by clicking here.

Some of the categories of abuse discussed below will overlap, and it is not necessary to properly define domestic violence for it to be domestic violence.  The categories are simply an attempt to help people understand the variety of ways that domestic violence be perpetrated.  This is not an exhaustive list, that would simply be too long.



While this is what most people think of when they think of domestic violence, they probably haven't thought of all the possible variations of it.  Physical violence or assault involves the use of physical force with the intent to harm or frighten a person.  Some types of physical domestic violence include:

  • causing physical pain
  • being pushed, grabbed or shoved; slapped; kicked, bitten or hit with a fist;
  • being hit with an object or something else that could hurt you, being beaten, choked, stabbed, or shot;
  • withholding necessities like warm clothing, medication or a wheelchair;
  • using weapons
  • abuse of children or pets
  • locking a woman out of the house or in the house
  • sleep and food deprivation
  • forced feeding
  • physical restraint e.g. pinning against the wall or bed.





People often don't think about sexual assault or harrassment in the context of a 'consenting' ongoing adult relationship, but unfortunately it is a common form of domestic violence.  

  • an act of a sexual nature carried out against a person's will through the use of physical force, intimidation or coercion, and includes any attempts to do this
  • withholding sex and blaming the victim for this action
  • Sexual threat including threat of acts of a sexual nature
  • threatening to perform another form of domestic violence unless the person has sex with them



Emotional abuse occurs when a person is subjected to certain behaviours or actions that are aimed at preventing or controlling their behaviour with the intent to cause them emotional harm or fear. These behaviours are characterised in nature by their intent to manipulate, control, isolate or intimidate the person they are aimed at. They are generally repeated behaviours and include psychological, social, economic and verbal abuse.


  • constant criticism
  • undermining the person’s self worth
  • highlighting all mistakes
  • not providing positive feedback
  • blaming the victim for the perpetrators problems like depression, alcoholism, or gambling addiction
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from contacting family, friends or community
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from using the telephone, Internet or family car
  • intentionally embarrassing a spouse in public
  • yelling, insulting or swearing
  • making a spouse feel guilty when they refuse sex
  • threatening to report a spouse's immigration status or to report them to Centrelink
  • online humiliation and intimidation
  • Monitored their whereabouts (e.g.. constant phone calls)
  • Controlled or tried to control where they went or who they saw
  • Stopped or tried to stop them from studying
  • Damaged, destroyed or stole any of their property
  • Constantly insulted them to make them feel ashamed, belittled or humiliated
  • Lied to their child/ren with the intent of turning them against them
  • Lied to other family members or friends with the intent of turning them against them




Economic abuse is financial control including withholding money, spending family money needed for groceries or bills on personal items, making the other person ask for money and provide receipts for money spent.  Some examples of economic or financial abuse include:


  • completely controlling finances and money
  • stopped or tried to stop them knowing about or having access to household money
  • stopped or tried to stop them from working or earning money
  • stopped or tried to stop them from studying
  • deprived them of basic needs such as food, shelter, sleep or assistive aids and then made them ask for money to purchase these things
  • taking a spouse's pay and not allowing them access to it
  • providing an inadequate allowance and monitoring what a woman spends money on
  • identity theft to secure credit
  • preventing a person from getting to work by taking the keys or car
  • preventing a person from getting to work by insisting that the children stay home from school that day


Recent research from RMIT University has found that 11% of Australians (that is men and women) have suffered from this form of domestic violence, though many don't realise that it is happening to them.  Read more about that here




Psychological abuse includes intimidation and threats.  Some examples of psychological abuse include:


  • threatening to commit suicide,
  • forced imprisonment,
  • driving dangerously
  • hurting pets or children,
  • intentionally breaking precious items,
  • making a person choose between their spouse and their friend
  • deciding which friends and family the spouse can talk to or spend time with
  • Lied to their child/ren with the intent of turning them against them
  • Lied to other family members or friends with the intent of turning them against them
  • Threatened to take their child/ren away from them
  • Threatened to harm their child/ren
  • Threatened to harm other family members or friends
  • Threatened to harm any of their pets
  • continuously criticising a spouse's family or friends
  • moving away so that the spouse has no support network
  • verbally and/or physically abusing a spouse in front of other people
  • misusing spiritual or religious beliefs and practices to justify other types of abuse or violence
  • forcing a person to act against their spiritual beliefs or religious obligations



Get Legal Advice


All of these forms of abuse are domestic violence and they are not acceptable in our society.  If you are the victim you have rights, and you should speak to one of our solicitors about what you can do to protect yourself and your family.  Our first appointment is free, our solicitors will speak to you in plain simple language and explain to you what steps you need to take.



More Information

For more information about our firm or about domestic violence, click on the blue link to the left to read more of our articles on this topic.