A society in which all communities and people are free from family violence

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What is Family Violence?

Family Violence |

Family violence is behavior that controls or dominates a family member and causes them to fear for their own or another person’s safety or wellbeing. It includes exposing a child to these behaviours, as well as their effects and impacts. Family violence presents across a spectrum of risk, ranging from subtle exploitation of power imbalances, through to escalating patterns of abuse over time.

Family violence is deeply gendered. While both men and women can use or experience family violence, overwhelmingly, people using violence are men, who largely use violence against their current or former female partners and children. However, family violence can occur in a range of ways across different relationship types and communities. The RFVP aims to strengthen and support communities to live free from family violence and we acknowledge all people currently affected by family violence in their everyday lives.

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 provides a broad definition of family violence and ‘family’ or ‘family-like’ relationships. Family violence takes a variety of forms and occurs in a range of relationships, including and outside of intimate, domestic partners. 

As defined in section 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008, family violence is a behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person if that behavior:

  • 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 of another person; or
  • behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of behaviour referred to in these ways.

Family violence can occur in relationships between spouses, domestic or other current or former intimate partner relationships, in other relationships such as parent/carer-child, child-parent/carer, relationships of older people, siblings and other relatives, including between adult-adult, extended family members and in-laws, kinship networks and in family-like or carer relationships. 

Source: MARAM Practice Guides.

Drivers of Family Violence

Family Violence is a deeply gendered issue rooted in structural inequalities and an imbalance of power between women and men. There is a solid evidence base regarding the drivers and reinforcing factors that lead to family violence. It is now acknowledged that:

  • Family violence and other forms of violence against women are serious, preventable acts that have significant impact on individuals, families, communities, our society and the economy;
  • Violence against women (including many forms of family violence and sexual assault) is driven by four specific expressions of gender inequality:
    • condoning of violence against women (and children)
    • men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence
    • stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
    • disrespect towards women and male peer relations that emphasis aggression.

See Change the Story: a shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia.

There are many commonly held misconceptions in our society and projected in the media that family violence is caused by:

Abuse of alcohol or drugs
Financial stress
Family background
Mental illness

None of these factors cause violence and there is no excuse for it. Many people are dealing with a number of these issues and don’t use violence against others, including their partners or family members. Using violence is a choice made by the individual. For more information about family violence myths, check out this fact sheet from Safe Steps.

The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) is the world’s longest-running survey of community attitudes towards violence against women. It has been led by VicHealth (2009 and 2013) and ANROWS led the next wave. For more information click here 

Let’s change the story: Violence against women in Australia

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