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Family and domestic violence is any violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour that occurs in current or past family, domestic or intimate relationships.

Intimate partners, family members and non-family carers can perpetrate violence against people they are caring for. Young people can also use violence or be victims of violence within their family.

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 recognises these definitions of family violence, confirming that:

Family violence is a fundamental violation of human rights and is unacceptable in any form.

Family violence may involve overt or subtle exploitation of power imbalances and may consist of isolated incidents or patterns of abuse over a period of time.

Under the Act, examples of behaviour that may constitute family violence include (but are not limited to):

  • an assault
  • a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour
  • stalking
  • repeated derogatory taunts
  • intentionally damaging or destroying property
  • intentionally causing death or injury to an animal
  • unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had
  • unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support
  • preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture
  • unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member’s family, or his or her liberty

What causes family violence

The causes of family violence are complex. There is no doubt that violence against women and children is deeply rooted in power imbalances between men and women. These imbalances are reinforced by gender norms and stereotypes, and attitudes and cultures that excuse violence and inequality.

Gender inequality plays out in society in many different ways, including:

  • ‘everyday sexism’ such as sexual and verbal harassment of women and girls
  • demeaning and sexualised portrayals of women and girls in the media
  • fewer women in leadership roles, giving men more control over decision‐making
  • the gender pay gap, caused by men being paid more than women for the same or similar work
  • women’s sport attracting less sponsorship, prize money and media coverage compared to men’s

Other factors that can also be associated with family violence include:

  • intergenerational abuse and trauma
  • exposure to violence as a child
  • social and economic exclusion
  • financial pressures
  • drug and alcohol misuse
  • mental illness

These factors can combine to influence the risk of an individual perpetrating family violence or becoming a victim of such violence.

Family violence in Victoria

The Victorian Government announced the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2015. The Premier of Victoria The Hon. Daniel Andrews MP said it was:

The most urgent law and order emergency occurring in our state and the most unspeakable crime unfolding across our nation.

Family violence in Victoria was estimated to have cost $5.3 billion in 2015-16. 

Following the release of the Royal Commission’s report in 2016, the Victorian Government is working towards implementing all 227 of the Commission’s recommendations.

The Victorian Government has invested approximately $2.7 billion to address family violence since 2014.

Family violence statistics

Approximately one quarter of women in Australia have experienced at least one incident of violence by an intimate partner. 

  • On average, 1 woman a week in Australia is killed by her intimate partner.
  • Most victims/survivors of intimate partner violence are women.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 Australian women (18% or 1.7 million) has experienced sexual violence.
  • Partner violence often occurs when women are pregnant.
  • Intimate partner violence is the greatest health risk factor (greater than smoking, alcohol and obesity) for women in their reproductive years.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience high rates of violence with significant health impacts. An estimated 3 in 5 indigenous women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner since age 15.
  • Over one-third of women with disabilities experience some form of intimate partner violence.
  • Children often see or hear violence between their parents. Family violence is a factor in many child protection cases.
  • Many women do not seek help about their experience of violence. Of women who have experienced violence by a current partner:
    • Just over half (54% or 149,700) had sought advice or support about the violence they experienced.
    • 82% (225,700) had never contacted the police.

Reviewed 07 May 2021

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