Acts of domestic and family violence are against the law in Australia and if someone is being violent towards you they are breaking the law. Violence and abuse are not just physical and bruises and scars are not the only signs that someone has been abused.


According to the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services, ‘…domestic and family violence includes behaviour or threats that aim to control a partner by causing fear or threatening their safety’.


According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the United Nations has also defined domestic and family violence as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.’


So, what does that mean in a practical sense? Well there are many different types of abuse and this table aims to break them down more clearly. If you recognise any of these behaviours as happening to you or someone else you should talk to someone to get advice, help or support.

You can download and print this page in a fact sheet for easy reference offline: 


Types of abuse and what it looks like

Cultural deprivation

You have been deprived from being a part of your community, or being able to improve your life through education or work, in such a way that you can ‘t easily function in the world like everyone around you, and make your life better.

Cyber abuse

You have been hurt, shamed or bullied on the internet or your phone. This could mean private photos of you are shared publicly, you are made fun of or bullied on social media, or harassed by text messages or phone calls. Learn more here.

Emotional, psychological or verbal abuse

You have been shouted or yelled at, spoken to in ways that make you feel bad, made to feel scared or threatened, or you have been bullied. You have been made to feel powerless, or like someone has control over you. Learn more here.

Financial abuse

You have been stopped from getting a job, going to work, or being able to spend or take care of your own money. You have been pressured to give your money to others or to spend it on others, you have been forced to sign financial agreements you don’t want to be involved with. You have been deprived of things you need by the person who financially supports you. Learn more here.

Legal abuse

You have been threatened or bullied by someone using the law to scare you, control you or intimidate you. You have been falsely accused of things based on reports that were made against you. Important legal documents that affect you have been tampered with or destroyed, or legal processes that affect you have been disregarded or interfered with. Learn more here.

Intimidation and threats

You have been made to feel anxious, scared, inferior or unsafe because someone has used their power over you. You feel controlled and like your choices are not your own. You have been made to fear someone or made to believe they are better or more important than you are.


You have been deprived of the basic things you need to feel safe, comfortable and healthy. You have not been provided with the basic or essential care that you need, by the person who is your carer. You have not been given the food, water, shelter and privacy you need, your personal care and hygiene needs are not met. Learn more here.

Physical abuse

You have been hit, slapped, kicked, thrown around or someone has threated to do any of these things to you. Your body has been hurt in some way, or you have experienced pain and/or injury. You have been physically restrained, forced to take medications or drugs against your will, or someone has taken control over you and your mobility. Learn more here.

Religious or spiritual abuse

You have been controlled or frightened by someone, using their or your religious or spiritual beliefs. You have been forced to take part in religious rituals or ceremonies that you do not believe in. You have been refused health care based on someone else’s medical beliefs. You have been prevented from practising your own religion in the ways you need to, or been prevented from going back to country when you want to. Learn more here.

Reproductive abuse

You have been forced to do something that affects your reproductive choices. You have been pressured to get pregnant or to end a pregnancy against your wishes. You have been forced into contraception you don’t want, or into not using it when you choose. You have had a sexually transmitted infection passed on to you on purpose, or had your access to sexual health treatment restricted. Learn more here.

Sexual assault

You have been made to feel scared or uncomfortable about doing something sexual, or having it done to you. You have been looked at or touched in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. You have been forced to do sexual things you don’t want to do. Sexual assault is also called sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape. Learn more here.

Social abuse and isolation

You have been made to feel isolated from the people who are important to you. You have not been allowed to see your friends and family. Someone has used power over you to cut you off from your community. Someone has been saying things about you publicly to make you look bad, or they’ve been spreading lies about you. Learn more here.


You have been followed, spied on or harassed, by someone who is giving you unwanted attention. You have been contacted numerous times in person, at home, at work, by phone or on social media. Someone has information about you and is sharing it with others against your wishes. You have been sent unwanted gifts, cards, or messages. A private investigator has been following you, or you discover someone has been looking for information about you in the community or online. Learn more here.