Communities and Justice

How to recognise domestic and family abuse

It can be hard for a person to realise they’re in a domestic and family violence situation, especially when the person they love is causing the hurt and violence.

If you're experiencing domestic and family violence you may feel afraid, insecure, degraded, angry and unsure about what to do. Domestic and family violence causes fear and reduces your self-esteem.

You may even blame yourself and think it’s your fault. Sometimes women don’t get help because they feel too ashamed to talk about what is happening. Or they hope the violence will stop.

Feeling unsafe

The abuse from domestic and family violence can make a person feel unsafe to be at home because someone is:

  • making them scared and uncomfortable
  • hurting them or being violent
  • making threats or humiliating them
  • forcing them to do sexual things they don’t want to do
  • controlling the finances and how much money they can spend
  • hurting their child or other family member
  • drinking a lot of alcohol and doing drugs

Many fear that if they leave, their abuser will try to find them and seriously injure them. They could also worry about losing custody of their children or having nowhere to live.

Research shows that the violence usually gets worse and more frequent as time goes on. There are many positive ways of dealing with problems that don’t involve violence, such as talking about what’s upsetting you or getting outside help. Here are the signs of a healthy relationship.

Domestic and family violence is a crime. Nobody deserves violence. The person who is abusing you is the one who is responsible for the abuse, not you.

Recognising it

If you or the person you want to support needs help in realising they’re in a domestic and family violence situation, you can make a start by thinking through the questions below to see what sounds familiar.

Does your former or current partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, flatmate, carer, or family member:

  • Make you feel uncomfortable or afraid?
  • Often puts you down, humiliates you, or makes you feel worthless?
  • Constantly checks up on what you are doing or where you are going?
  • Tries to stop you from seeing your own friends or family?
  • Makes you feel afraid to disagree or say ‘no’ to them?
  • Constantly accuses you of flirting with others when this isn't true?
  • Tells you how the household finances should be spent, or stops you having any money for yourself?
  • Stops you from receiving medical help?
  • Scares or hurts you by being violent (for example, hitting, choking, smashing things, locking you in, driving dangerously to frighten you)?
  • Pressures or forces you to do sexual things that you don’t want to do?
  • Threatens to hurt you, or to kill themselves, if you say you want to end the relationship?
  • Interferes with your online access or access to the phone?
  • Hurts your children or performs violent actions in front of your children?

Does your former or current partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, flatmate, carer, or family member make you feel:

  • fearful or scared?
  • anxious?
  • sick?
  • numb?
  • like you have no confidence?
  • so stressed that you have trouble sleeping because of these feelings?
  • physical symptoms, such as tense muscles or a racing heart beat because of these feelings?
  • unable to concentrate because of these feelings?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then you could be experiencing abuse. If you don't feel safe, respected and cared for, then something isn't right.

(Source: The questions listed above were produced by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria and are republished with permission.)

To talk to someone right now who will listen, call the NSW Domestic Violence Line. It's open 24/7. 1800 65 64 63.

Last updated:

07 Oct 2022