Family violence the facts

Research shows family violence is more likely to be committed by men than any other family member.

Under the Victorian Government's Family Violence Protection Act 2008, Family violence is:

(a) behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person if that behaviour

  • Is physically or sexually abusive or
  • Is emotionally or psychologically abusive or
  • Is economically abusive or
  • Is threatening or
  • Is coercive or
  • In any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person


(b) behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of, behaviour referred to in paragraph (a).

Family violence can affect anyone in the community – regardless of gender, age, location, socio-economic and health status, culture, sexual identity, ability, ethnicity or religion. While it can be perpetrated by any member of a family against another, it is more likely to be perpetrated by men against women and children.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey, a rigorous national study based on face to face interviews with over 17,300 Australians found that:

  • One in three women had experienced physical violence since the age of 15
  • Nearly one in five women had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15
  • 16 per cent of women had experienced violence by a current or previous partner since the age of 15.

Intimate partner violence especially affects pregnant women. The ABS found that 36 per cent of women who experienced intimate partner violence were pregnant at the time of the violence and 17 per cent of those women were pregnant when the violence started (ABS 2006).

Further key research facts

Indigenous women are significantly more likely to be victims of violence (Mouzos and Makkai 2004; National Crime Prevention 2001).

Intimate partner violence alone contributes 9 per cent to the disease burden in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years, making it the largest known contributor to the preventable disease burden in this group (VicHealth 2004).

Women who have been exposed to violence have a greater risk of developing a range of health problems, including stress, anxiety, depression, pain syndromes, phobias and somatic and medical symptoms (World Health Organization (WHO) 2000).

Women who have been exposed to violence report poorer physical health overall, are more likely to engage in practices that are harmful to their health and experience difficulties in accessing health services (WHO 2000).

The psychological consequences of violence against women can be as grave as the physical effects. Depression is one of the most common consequences of sexual and physical violence against women. Women who suffer from violence are also at a higher risk of stress and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (UN Secretary-General 2006).

Further information

The following websites publish comprehensive fact sheets on family violence and related topics: