Family violence

Family violence is harmful behaviour that occurs when someone threatens or controls a family member through fear. It can include physical harm, sexual assault, emotional and economic abuse and may also involve:

  • unreasonably controlling a person by withholding money for reasonable living expenses where a person is dependent on them for financial support
  • threatening to harm another family member or pet in order to intimidate
  • racist taunts that inflict emotional harm
  • preventing contact with other family members or friends in order to torment the person
  • behaviour that causes a child to experience any of the elements of family violence above.

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, women are overwhelmingly the victims of intimate partner and sexual violence.

Importantly, violence against women is preventable, with intervention being an important prevention strategy. Recovery from family violence is an ongoing journey that takes time, and support needs to be holistic, accounting for the diverse experience of each woman.

Facts on family violence

Our Watch, a national organisation set up to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children, reports the following data on the prevalence of family violence:

  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, according to the most recent analysis of homicide statistics in Australia.                 
  • Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care.                 
  • Family violence is a leading factor in causing homelessness.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey released in November 2017 shows:


(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

The rates of violence were further summarised by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) 


More information

Get help with family violence

Read about the work of McAuley Care, our safe house providing crisis accommodation for women and their children who are escaping family violence.