What is domestic violence?


Domestic violence is a crime, punishable by law. It occurs when a person who has a relationship of any kind, uses violent or intimidating behaviour to control or dominate another.

Domestic violence is an abuse of power. It occurs in all social classes, all age groups, across all cultures and communities, and same sex relationships. It can occur between people in a range of domestic relationships including:

  • Intimate/personal relationships
  • Spousal relationships
  • Family, parent/adolescent/child (including adult children towards elderly parents), sibling relations
  • Carer relationships

Domestic violence is most often perpetrated by men against women and children. The majority of perpetrators continue to be males. However, the percentage of female perpetrators is rising. Domestic violence is a deliberate act. Perpetrators who are violent to their partner are not usually violent towards others, such as friends or work colleagues.

The National Committee on Violence Against Women defined Domestic Violence as:

Violence and abuse perpetrated by a male upon a female adopted to control his victim, which results in physical, sexual and/or psychological damage, forced social isolation or economic deprivation, or behaviour which leaves a woman and children living in fear.

Fear is the common key element in violence against women. It is often the most powerful weapon used by the perpetrator to control his victim.

Disagreements are a normal part of relationships. In healthy relationships, each partner respects the other even though they may disagree. They treat each other as equals and feel comfortable about putting forward their opinions. They often compromise or come to an agreement to benefit everyone.

However, in relationships where there is domestic and family violence, the situation is often very different. Fear is used by the perpetrator to control their partner, who is unable to express their opinions or disagree. Verbal, emotional and physical abuse as well as manipulation and isolation are used to control them, the children and her extended family and friends. In most domestic and family violence cases the victims are female.

Women do not enter into relationships believing they will experience domestic violence. It is normal when entering a relationship to feel loved, happy and be excited about the future and what it may bring. 

Jealousy and possessiveness can be seen as signs of how much they are loved. Little signs of verbal, emotional abuse, aggression or abuse may be subtle and can be explained away due to the pressures of life, family and work etc.

Download our brochure for more information

For other resources see – Domestic Violence Resources

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