South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Examples of family violence

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Physical abuse is when an abuser uses physical force against another person in a way that injures the person or puts them at risk of being injured. Physical abuse ranges from physical restraint to murder. Some examples are:

  • grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting, biting, arm-twisting, kicking, stabbing, shooting, pushing, throwing, kicking, punching, beating, tripping, battering, bruising, choking, shaking
  • holding, restraining, confining
  • breaking bones
  • assaulting with a weapon, such as a knife or gun
  • burning
  • stopping a person from having what they need for their health, such as medication, medical care or hygienic assistance
  • forcing a person to drink alcohol or take drugs.

Psychological or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal, and the actions or behaviours are less obvious than with physical abuse. Physical abuse may seem worse, but verbal or nonverbal abuse can be very emotionally damaging. Some examples are:

  • undermining a person’s self-worth through constant criticism, belittling, name-calling or insults
  • threatening or intimidating a person to gain compliance
  • destroying personal property and possessions, or threatening to do so
  • being violent towards an object or pet
  • yelling or screaming
  • constantly harassing a person
  • not trusting a person’s decision making
  • telling a person they are worthless without their abuser
  • being excessively possessive
  • isolating a person from friends and family
  • excessive checking-up on a person
  • saying hurtful things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using the substance as an excuse to say hurtful things
  • blaming a person for the abuser’s own acts or feelings
  • making a person feel there is no way out of the relationship.

Sexual abuse is often linked to physical abuse. Some examples are:

  • any sexual contact without consent, such as rape (including marital rape), attacks on the sexual body parts, forced prostitution, unwanted touching, forced sex with others, being denied contraception when you want to use it
  • attempting to undermine a person’s sexuality, such as being sexually derogatory, criticising sexual performance and desirability, making accusations of infidelity, withholding sex.

Economic abuse includes:

  • making or attempting to make a person financially dependent, such as maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding money or credit cards, or forbidding attendance at school or employment
  • stealing from or defrauding a partner of money or assets
  • exploiting a partner’s resources for personal gain
  • withholding physical resources such as food, clothes, necessary medications, or shelter from a partner
  • preventing a partner from working or choosing an occupation.

Spiritual abuse includes:

  • using a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them
  • preventing a person from practising their religious or spiritual beliefs
  • ridiculing a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
  • forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to.

Legal abuse is when a person exploits the family law system to intimidate, exhaust, exploit or disempower their partner or family member.

Stalking is also family violence. It’s a pattern of unwanted contact that makes a person feel afraid, nervous, harassed or in danger. Stalking can occur in person or online.

This list 5 covers only some examples of family violence. If you think you might be experiencing family violence, seek help.

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