What is family violence?

Family violence occurs where a person uses violent and/or abusive behaviour to control another person who they have some type of 'family' relationship.

Domestic and family violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a victim through fear. The term ‘domestic violence’, which is a form of ‘family violence’ is often used to refer to violence against an intimate partner or ex-partner, while ‘family violence’ is a broader concept and includes violence against children, older people, parents and other kin or family members.

The ACT Family Violence Act 2016 defines family violence as any of the following behaviours by a person against a family member:

  •  physical violence or abuse
  •  sexual violence or abuse
  •  emotional or psychological abuse  economic abuse
  •  threatening behaviour
  • coercion or controls or dominates the family member and causes them to feel fear for their safety or the safety of another family member
  • causes a child to hear, witness or otherwise be exposed to the above behaviours.

Despite what is commonly believed, family violence is not limited to relationships between husbands, wives and their children. It also includes violence between defacto couples, LGBTIQ+ relationships, intimate partners and immediate family (relatives) of those couples, including step-children and adopted children.

Family violence may include, but is not limited to, criminal behaviours such as:

  • assault (slapping, punching, kicking, grabbing, pushing)
  • threats to physically harm a person
  • confining a person against their will
  • sexual assault
  • child abuse or neglect
  • behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness or otherwise be exposed to family violence
  • damage to another person’s property
  • stalking
  • harm to a person’s pet or threats to harm.

Behaviours which are considered family violence but may not be a criminal offence in the absence of a relevant protection order include:

  • harassing or intimidating behaviour
  • verbal or emotional abuse (name calling, humiliation, making another person feel worthless, insults) financial abuse (withholding and/or controlling finances).

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