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What is domestic violence

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Women and children are the overwhelming majority of those who experience domestic and family violence. There are many forms of abuse including physical, verbal, emotional, financial, social isolation, sexual and psychological. Psychological or emotional abuse can be more harmful than physical abuse. 

Domestic and Family Violence can have a profound effect on children whether they are the target of abuse or witness abuse of another family member.

Any person can experience domestic and family violence regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, sexuality or lifestyle. Adults can abuse their children, and adolescent children can abuse their parents.

Someone you know may very likely be experiencing domestic or family violence in their relationship


Abuse in a relationship is never acceptable.



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• Abuse of any type happens in families regardless of class, education, cultural or religious background.

• Physical abuse is against the law in Australia. The victim is not to blame.

• Alcohol and drug abuse can make violence worse, but they do not cause violence.

• Abuse tends to get worse and happens more and more often; it won’t stop unless there is help from outside the situation.

• Violence in the family will have a negative effect on children’s behaviour and future mental health.

• Abuse takes different forms including physical, sexual, emotional and financial.

• Emotional abuse can harm a woman’s self-confidence and how she feels about herself, just as much as physical abuse can.



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Domestic violence typically follows an ongoing and recurring pattern, known as the ‘cycle of violence’. Not everyone’s experience is the same, but the cycle generally has distinct phases that are regularly repeated.  However, not all women feel the cycle is relevant to their experience of violence.  If the cycle does not resonate for you, this does not mean your relationship is not abusive. 

The first is the ‘build up phase’, when tension increases as the abuser becomes ever more irritable. In a non-violent relationship, tensions can be resolved. In a violent relationship, the abuser often blames his partner for the mounting tension and his behaviour becomes increasingly domineering and controlling. Meanwhile, his partner goes out of her way to please him in any way she can: she feels like she is ‘walking on eggshells’.

The second is the ‘explosive phase’ when the offender loses control: it may include verbal, emotional, psychological, physical and/or sexual abuse. The partner may try to reason with him and calm him down. Depending on the severity of the abuse, how often it has occurred and her recognition of the ongoing pattern, she may try to leave the relationship and seek help to protect herself and her children.

The third phase is the ‘remorse and false honeymoon phase’. The offender may express remorse, but will blame the partner, someone or something else for his actions. He will often beg forgiveness, promise never to do it again and may even buy her presents. On the surface, everything seems calm and wonderful, although the partner will often be confused as well as relieved that the abuser has agreed to change, optimistic about a happier future. However, this phase is also intended to control and keep her in the relationship and it may not be long before the ‘build up phase’ begins again.