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What is family violence?

Sometimes families can hurt each other. This is called family violence and it is against the law. Family violence is also called domestic violence or abuse. While anyone can use family violence to hurt their family, most family violence is used by men to hurt women, children and other vulnerable people, like those with a disability. Families are all different. Some families have a mum and dad, step parent, brother and sister, uncle and aunt and grand parents - or people who live in a family-like relationship. This could be people who look after you for a job or because they are carers, friends or partners. Partners are people who are married or live together as a couple. A couple could be a man and woman who live together, or two men together or two women together.

You can be hurt by family violence if:

  • Someone in your family or a carer who is like family, uses family violence against you.
  • You watch someone in your family being hurt by family violence.
  • You see someone in your family hurt after family violence is used against them.
  • You see family belongings that have been broken by a person using family violence.
  • You watch your pets being hurt by a person in your family using family violence.

There are different types of family violence that include physical family violence, emotional family violence, sexual family violence, financial family violence and social family violence.

Physical Family Violence

Physical family violence is when someone hurts your body by:

  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Pinching
  • Pulling hair
  • Biting
  • Kicking
  • Pushing
  • Using weapons or anything around you to hurt you.
  • Choking
  • Using medicine to make you do what they want or be sleepy all the time.
  • Not giving you your medication.
  • Hiding things you need.
  • Tying you up or turning off the things you use to get around in, like your wheelchair.

Emotional Family Violence

Emotional family violence is when someone says or does mean things to hurt your feelings like constantly putting you down or criticising you, or scaring you over and over. They may threaten to hurt you, another person you care about or a family pet. Some things family might say that are emotional family violence are:

  • "You're a retard."
  • "My life would be better if you just died."
  • "You're a waste of space."
  • "If you don't do as I want, I'll take your pet away."
  • "I wish you had never been born."
  • "If you tell anyone about what I did, I'll kill your pet rabbit."
  • "You will get taken away from your family if you tell."
  • "No one will believe you because you're disabled."
  • "I'll kill myself if you leave me."

Emotional family violence is also when someone makes you do things in front of other people that you do not want to do such as not allowing you privacy while dressing, changing your splints or going to the toilet. Perhaps they talk about you so that you can hear them.

Sometimes emotional family violence might include someone not helping you to do the things you need to do like eating, going to the toilet, giving you medicine, showering and going to the doctor.

Sexual Family Violence

Sexual family violence is when a family member or carer makes you to do sexual things that you do not want to do. Sex between family members is against the law even if you say yes, unless the family members are a couple, like mum and dad. Some things that are sexual family violence are:

  • Looking at or touching your private parts if you do not want them to (these are the parts of your body that are covered by your underwear or bathers including your breasts, bottom, vagina and penis).
  • Asking you to look at or touch their private parts, or putting their mouth on your private parts or wanting you to do that to them.
  • Putting their private parts, a finger or anything inside your private parts and you do not want them to.
  • Taking photos of you without your clothes on with their mobile phone or camera.
  • Making you look at sexual things in books, DVD's, mobile phones, MP3 players or the internet.
  • Forcing you to have sex even if you are married.
  • Forcing you to be sterilised, or have an abortion or become pregnant.

Remember, sometimes a family member or carer may have to touch your private parts to help care for your body and keep you healthy. That person will talk about it with you first and will not ask you to keep it a secret. Your feelings will help you tell yourself if it feels right or not.

Financial Family Violence

Financial family violence is when someone in your family takes control of your money when you don't want them to, stops you from having access to your money or uses it for them, not you. Some examples of financial family violence are:

  • Not paying your bills like rent, food or medicine if that is their job.
  • Gambling with your money.
  • Buying things for themselves with your money.
  • Taking money off you as a punishment for bad behaviour.
  • Using your money without telling you what is happening to it.
  • Making you hand over your Centrelink payment or wages.
  • Making you sign contracts that you don't really understand.

Social Family Violence

Social family violence happens when your family or carer will not let you see your family and friends, case manager or workers, or makes you feel bad when you see them or makes it hard for you to talk to them by not letting you use your phone, computer or equipment that you need to talk. Or if your family or carer stops you from going out to work or school for no good reason, that is social family violence. Some examples of social family violence are:

  • Family constantly checking up on your whereabouts.
  • Always leaving you home because it is too time consuming to take you.
  • Stopping you from practising your religion.
  • Threatening to 'out' you if you are gay or lesbian.
  • Discouraging contact between you and your caseworker.

How can you be hurt by family violence?

No one deserves to be hurt by family violence. Everyone has the right to be safe in their family and home. If there is family violence happening to you or in your family and home you may have:

  • Injuries to your body.
  • Butterflies in your tummy all the time.
  • Headaches.
  • Trouble sleeping or bad dreams.
  • Not being able to make your own decisions.
  • Sick feelings in your body.
  • Money worries.
  • Not feeling like eating or eating too much.
  • Not being able to relax.

You may feel:

  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Blaming yourself
  • Angry
  • Confused and not knowing what to do.
  • Lonely
  • Sad
  • Scared
  • Not sure who to trust
  • Worthless
  • Like hurting yourself or being invisible.
  • That no one cares about you.
  • That you can't do anything right.
  • That you need to protect other people.
  • Like not wanting to be at home.
  • Wondering how you will cope without your carer.
  • Afraid other people might think you are not a good parent.

Maybe you have felt like this or have been hurt in ways that are not mentioned here. There are many ways of being hurt by family violence. If you are feeling like this, tell someone who is an adult and who you can trust. There are people who can help you, like the police or a family violence worker. These people can help you begin to feel safe in your family and home and help the hurt feelings go away. Go to the "Where to go for Help" section for more details on who can help you. Remember everyone has the right to live free from family violence.


If family violence is happening in your family what can you do?

Family violence is not okay. It is against the law. You have a right to be safe in your family and home. Tell someone and ask for help.

Go to someone you trust, who is an adult and who will listen. This person could be:

  • Your mum or dad.
  • Your carer.
  • Your worker at your day placement.
  • Your case manager.
  • Your doctor or nurse.
  • The police.

The person you go to can help you, so that you get the help you need to keep you safe. People whose job it is to help with family violence are; a family violence worker, the police or a worker at the Court. Go to the "Going to the Family Violence Worker", "Going to the Police", "Going to Court" and the "Information for Carers" sections for more information.

Sometimes talking about what has happened can help you to feel better. This is called counselling. The person you trust, the family violence worker or the police can help organise counselling for you.


Here is a video produced by Women with Disabilities Victoria with some more information:

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