What is family violence?

Family violence is not limited to physical or sexual abuse, it includes emotional abuse and any threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour.

Family violence directly affects one in five Victorian women over the course of their lifetime. It is the leading contributor to preventable death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years.

Family and domestic violence is any violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour that occurs in current or past family, domestic or intimate relationships. This includes not only physical injury but direct or indirect threats, sexual assault, emotional and psychological torment, economic control, damage to property, social isolation and any behaviour which causes a person to live in fear.

The term "family violence" encompasses violence that might occur between family members, such as violence between siblings or across generations, in addition to violence between partners. Use of the term family violence also reflects indigenous communities' preference for the term because it more accurately reflects extended kinship ties and how the impact of violence affects all members of a family.

While child abuse and family violence are generally considered separately, it is important to acknowledge the inter-relationship between family violence and child abuse. These forms of violence often coexist, with violence being directed towards both women and children. It is also a form of psychological child abuse, if a child hears or witnesses violence directed towards their mother or a sibling, even if that child is not a primary victim.

Family violence is predominantly, but not exclusively, perpetrated by men against women and children. Violence can occur in any kind of relationship including, lesbian relationships and against older people and people with a disability. Family violence perpetrated against older people is referred to as elder abuse. For more information, see Elder abuse prevention on the Health.vic website.

If you have experienced violence, our department provides support services and offers violence prevention programs.

We provide support services for people who have experienced violence and offers violence prevention programs through the following services:

  • Family violence prevention and support
  • Indigenous family violence strategy
  • Sexual assault support
  • Victims of crime
  • Integrated family violence strategy.

Services include individual counselling, specialised support groups, and referral services. These services aim firstly to promote early intervention to prevent the occurrence or escalation of family violence, and secondly, to prevent future occurrences of family violence by offering post crisis support.

Further assistance is available for women seeking intervention orders through court support advocacy and referral. These services also provide support to children to improve their coping skills, self esteem, and foster the development of non-violent problem-solving strategies.