What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence is any behaviour in an intimate or family relationship which is violent, threatening, coercive or controlling, causing a person to live in fear.

Domestic and family violence can happen in intimate relationships, including:

  • couples who are married or engaged to be married, separated, divorced, whether of the same of different sex
  • de facto partners, whether of the same or different sex
  • couples promised to each other under cultural or religious tradition
  • dating couples

Domestic and family violence can also happen in family relationships, including:

  • people who are related through blood, marriage or de facto partnerships, adoption and fostering relationships
  • siblings and extended family
  • the full range of kinship ties in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • constructs of family within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ) communities
  • people living in the same house or the same residential care facility
  • people reliant on care

Domestic and family violence can impact anyone and happens in every community, all cultures, and to people in every age and income group.  However, gender is the biggest risk factor for domestic violence. Women and their children are most at risk of domestic violence from their current of former partners.

Types of behaviours

Domestic and family violence includes different types of behaviours used to control, dominate, humiliate or make someone fearful. These behaviours include:

  • physical assault or abuse
  • sexual assault and other sexually abusive or coercive behaviour
  • emotional or psychological abuse, including verbal abuse and threats of violence
  • economic abuse, for example denying a person access to money or financial support
  • stalking, harassment and intimidation including coercion of the other person’s family, to cause fear or ongoing harassment
  • technology-facilitated abuse,  including use of electronic communication or social media
  • kidnapping or deprivation of liberty, as well as preventing the other person from making or keeping connections with her or his family or kin, friends, faith or culture
  • damage to property
  • threatening to hurt, hurting or killing pets

This definition comes from the NSW Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Framework for Reform It Stops Here: Standing together to end domestic and family violence in NSW.

Last updated:

31 Aug 2023

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