Abuse does not have to be physical to be domestic and family violence. Domestic and family violence can take many forms including emotional and psychological abuse, social isolation, financial control, physical violence and sexual assault. For more information, see Types of Abuse.

Domestic and family violence in a relationship is when a partner or ex-partner consciously tries to manipulate and dominate the other. It is about the misuse of power and control. It can happen in any type of relationship or intimate partnership: LGBTIQ, same-sex, heterosexual, monogamous, open or polyamorous; dating, in new relationships or long-term; live-in or not, even long distance.

Family violence in a relationship is when one family member consciously tries to manipulate and control another family member. Family violence can occur in your immediate family, extended family, kin or chosen family. These factors may be part of the reason people stay in the relationship or do not wish to leave their current geographical location.

Domestic and family violence happens across all communities, social classes, ages, cultural backgrounds and geographical areas.

Domestic and family violence is never the fault of the person being controlled.

It is the responsibility of the person misusing power and control to stop their abusive behaviour.

Throughout this website domestic violence is defined as abuse from a partner, or ex-partner, towards the other in an intimate or romantic relationship. However, domestic and family violence may also include abuse within other types of relationships including between family members, housemates, sexual relationships or in carer relationships, either paid or unpaid. Depending on the circumstances of the relationship, the law may classify the abuse as personal violence and not domestic violence. 

At the time of publishing this website (and accompanying booklet) in New South Wales, new laws and policies relating to the support of victims of domestic and family violence were being developed by the government. 

The NSW Government’s policy released in 2014, It Stops Here, uses new definitions of domestic and family violence that are inclusive of LGBTIQ people. The policy recognises a range of types of abusive behaviours that are non-physical including the impact of preventing a person from having connection with their community or culture.

“Domestic and family violence includes any behaviour, in an intimate or family relationship, which is violent, threatening, coercive or controlling, causing a person to live in fear. It is usually manifested as part of a pattern of controlling or coercive behaviour.” (It Stops Here, NSW Government, 2014, p.7)

“An intimate relationship refers to people who are (or have been) in an intimate partnership whether or not the relationship involves or has involved a sexual relationship, i.e. married or engaged to be married, separated, divorced, de facto partners (whether of the same or different sex), couples promised to each other under cultural or religious tradition, or who are dating.” (It Stops Here, NSW Government, 2014, p.7)

“A family relationship has a broader definition and includes people who are related to one another through blood, marriage or de facto partnerships, adoption and fostering relationships, sibling and extended family relationships. It includes the full range of kinship ties in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, extended family relationships, and constructs of family within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ) communities. People living in the same house, people living in the same residential care facility and people reliant on care may also be considered to be in a domestic relationship if their relationship exhibits dynamics which may foster coercive and abusive behaviours.” (It Stops Here, NSW Government, 2014, p.7)


Types of Abuse

Domestic and family violence can take many forms. Many of these don’t include physical violence.

1) Emotional or psychological abuse is any type of behaviour used by one partner (or ex-partner) to make the other person feel afraid or worthless. Itcan also include one partner making the other partner feel responsible for their safety.

Common forms of emotional and psychological abuse include:

  • putting the partner down, e.g. telling them that they are ugly, stupid, worthless or incompetent;
  • humiliating them in front of friends, family or in public;
  • ‘outing’ or threatening to out their sexuality, gender (identity, history or expression) or intersex status to friends, family, at work or to their cultural community;
  • threatening to hurt or actually hurting pets;
  • telling, or threatening to tell, others about HIV status (or other illness) without permission;
  • applying pressure to a partner to act or look more “male” or more “female”;
  • insistence that a partner must have medical treatment to appear more male or female;
  • applying pressure to conform to a particular gender;
  • applying pressure to have surgery to “normalise” a partner’s body, sex organs or physical appearance;
  • threatening to harm family members or children;
  • treating children in a disrespectful or abusive manner;
  • undermining the relationship between the children and their partner;
  • threatening to self harm or commit suicide;
  • operating video surveillance cameras and audio recording devices in the home to monitor the activities of the partner; 
  • monitoring the partner’s movements; or
  • any other threatening behaviour. 

2) Social abuse is any behaviour by a partner to control the other’s social life.  It can include:

  • stopping the partner from visiting their friends or family;
  • abusing or fighting with their friends or family so they stop visiting, calling or having contact;
  • cutting off the phone or monitoring calls or bills;
  • cutting off social media or monitoring social media activities; 
  • preventing them from attending LGBTIQ events and venues or other events; or
  • isolating them from their cultural background or preventing them practicing their spiritual beliefs.

3) Social media, cyberbullying and online abuse is any behaviour involving the use of the internet by one partner to harm, harass or humiliate the other. It may occur through social media, email, online forums, blogs or other interactive websites or apps. It can include:

  • sending mean or threatening messages directly to their partner or posting them publicly; 
  • spreading rumours or encouraging others to harass them;
  • publicly disclosing their private information (e.g. home address, workplace, telephone number, banking details, or other personal information);
  • impersonating or posing as them while interacting online;
  • creating fake profiles to gain access to their partner’s profile to monitor, stalk or harass them; 
  • posting pictures of them without their consent;
  • stalking, following or monitoring their movements online; or
  • installing tracking devices or apps on phones, computers, or tablets. 

4) Stalking is any behaviour by which a partner (or ex-partner) tries to intimidate or harass the other. It can include:

  • following their partner when they go out, to work, or home;
  • constantly watching them, their house or workplace;
  • monitoring their behaviour online; or
  • calling, texting or emailing them, their family, friends or work colleagues more often than is appropriate or when asked not to.

5) Financial abuse is any behaviour by a partner to control the other’s money against their will. It can include:

  • taking their partner’s money, controlling their income, or accessing their partner’s accounts without consent; 
  • making and controlling all the decisions about joint money and assets;
  • refusing to give them money or making them account for everything they spend;
  • threatening to withdraw financial support as a means of control;
  • preventing the partner from working so they become financially vulnerable or reliant on their partner;
  • manipulating and coercing the partner to sign financial contracts with third parties;  
  • making the partner responsible for all the joint bills and debts, or making the partner responsible for the other partner’s debts (otherwise known as ‘sexuality transmitted debt’); or 
  • impersonating or posing as their partner to access their partner’s accounts or to sign up for credit or debts.

6) Physical abuse is any type of physical violence that an abusive partner inflicts on the other. It can include:

  • locking them in the house or stopping them from leaving;
  • restraining, pushing, slapping, hitting, kicking, strangling or burning;
  • drugging their partner with prescription, pharmaceutical, or illegal drugs; 
  • breaking possessions or punching/kicking walls;
  • withholding or stopping their partner from accessing or taking medication or treatments; or
  • transmitting HIV to their partner. 

7) Sexual abuse is any behaviour where one partner forces the other to perform sexual acts they don’t want to. It can include:

  • pressuring them to have sex or do sexual acts when they don’t want to;
  • pressuring, forcing or tricking them into having unsafe sex;
  • involving them in BDSM without consent;
  • making them have sex or do sexual acts with other people;
  • sexually assaulting (raping) them; or
  • not disclosing their HIV positive status, saying they are HIV negative, and having unprotected sex.