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Domestic and family violence is any behaviour that is used to gain or maintain power and control over someone else. This could be psychological, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse, financial, social or spiritual control, stalking or intimidation, including the use of technology.

We provide a range of services to assist women and children experiencing domestic and family violence, plus supports for fathers who have caused harm to their family through violence, or the use of coercive controlling behaviours.

For more information:
P: 1800 324 924

LEARN MORE ABOUT Our Domestic & Family Violence Support Services

Are you, or someone you know, affected by domestic or family violence? Or are you violent to your family and wanting help to change? If yes, please reach out.

We will walk alongside you, advising as we go and tapping into our range of our services as needed. We ensure you’re not alone and show you that change is possible and there’s hope of a better life.

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What is domestic violence? And what is family violence?

Domestic violence is any form of controlling, abusive or violent patterns of behaviours by an intimate partner towards the other partner. The behaviours occur over time and are intended to maintain power and control through use of fear, intimidation and sometimes, also guilt.

Forms of domestic violence include physical, sexual, financial, emotional/ psychological, verbal, social and spiritual abuse and coercive control. Domestic violence is not just physical abuse.

Family violence is a more recent term which includes the same controlling, abusive or violent pattern of behaviours towards other family members which can include parents, children or other members of the extended family.

How can domestic and family violence (DFV) affect children?

The effects of domestic and family violence are experienced by all family members. Living with violence can have as much of an impact on children as the victims themselves. Children who witness abuse or live in a violent household experience the same fear, intimidation and threat to safety that the victim experiences. Studies show that children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to:

  • Display aggressive and/or socially inappropriate behaviours
  • Have diminished self-esteem and self-worth
  • Have poor academic performance, problem solving skills and concentration
  • Show emotional distress, phobias, anxiety or depression
  • Have physical concerns such as digestive issues, headaches etc.

What causes domestic violence? Why does it happen?

Domestic violence is caused by an imbalance of power in a relationship and a dangerous level of control of one person over another. It is the result of gender inequality and societal attitudes that are passed down through intergenerational trauma and beliefs.

Domestic violence is a complex issue and situational factors such as alcohol and drugs, traumatic head injuries, financial problems or unemployment can add to the risk. It is important to note that while these situational factors may be a cause for an increase in violence, they are not an excuse as choosing to be violent is an active choice by the individual. There is always a choice to not use violence.

Beliefs about gender roles, that often place men in a position of superiority or power, are used to support and justify using violence, abuse and controlling behaviours. These beliefs and attitudes are cultivated while we are being socialised, making education about gender equality very important to support change.

Are men also affected by domestic violence?

Men can also be victims of domestic and family violence, however statistics tell us that this is much less likely to occur or be reported. When it does occur, the severity of the violence is much less than when women and children experience violence and abuse from the male partner. When men are victims of domestic violence from their female partner, it is more likely to be emotional forms of abuse.

Is it domestic violence if it only happens once?

Yes, it can be. Although there may have been only one incident of serious violence, this may be enough for you to feel scared, and you may find yourself changing your behaviour in the hope of preventing future violence. This control may be reinforced through threats or emotional or financial abuse, causing you to be dependent on the abuser, and potentially isolating you from friends and family.

How can we stop domestic violence?

There are efforts to provide education in schools and communities about gender equality, and this is a great place to start. Men who use violence need to recognise that their behaviour is a problem and will not be accepted, using a zero tolerance approach. For a zero tolerance approach to be effective, we need to better understand domestic and family violence so that:

  • We can prevent women from being killed by someone they know.
  • Children can be safe from fear, harm and the lifelong impacts the trauma from domestic violence can cause
  • We can better identify who is the person causing DFV harm. Sometimes women and children resist the violence, and they can be mistaken as the person using domestic and family violence.
  • We are aware of when it starts so we can interrupt the cycle of trauma that is caused.
  • We fully understand the seriousness of this problem and take full measures to address it.

How do I report domestic violence?

You can report DV at your local police station and request an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) for your safety. It can be helpful to take someone to support you to make this report. In preparation of making the report, putting together a timeline of incidents and events along with any other evidence such as photos can be helpful. If you are not ready to speak to police or feel this may further endanger you, you can speak to a specialist Domestic Violence service such ours at CatholicCare or 1800 RESPECT to get advice.

Can I file a domestic violence report online?

No, unfortunately all domestic and family violence statements must be made in person at a police station. However, if you would like to speak to someone prior to this there are specialist domestic violence services such ours at CatholicCare who can help support you with reporting, or you can speak to 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for a private and confidential conversation about your experiences and next steps.

If you have experienced sexual assault and do not want to speak directly with a police officer, but you want the police to know you have been sexually assaulted you can complete the online Sexual Assault Reporting Option (SARO) through the community portal. Information received via the SARO is treated with the utmost confidentiality and recorded on a secure and restricted NSW Police Force database.

How do I help a victim of domestic violence?

The most important thing you can do to support a victim of domestic violence is believe them. Do not question why they choose to stay in the abuse. Just listen. Do they need help with safe housing or reporting to police? You can assist them with a referral to a specialist domestic violence service such as CatholicCare which will support them to leave safely and regain stability if that’s what they’d like.

Is domestic violence a crime?

Yes. In NSW domestic violence is a crime under the Crimes Act and is punishable by law. Domestic violence is never OK or excusable.

What is verbal abuse and is it domestic violence?

Yes. Domestic violence does not have to involve physical abuse, it can be verbal abuse. Signs of verbal abuse include:

  • Ongoing and repeated yelling.
  • Belittling someone by calling them names, swearing at them, or putting them down.
  • Telling someone they have to do something and they don’t have a choice.
  • Gaslighting – when a person is manipulated into questioning their own sanity or perceptions, creating self-doubt.
  • Telling someone there will be consequences if they don’t do something eg. “If you go out with your friends tonight, don’t bother coming back.”
  • Manipulating others to get them to do something, often through guilt eg. “I did this for you” or “If you loved me, you’d do this for me.”
  • Patronising or talking down to someone or implying they are inferior or less capable in some way eg. “You won’t understand, so I’ll explain this again”.
  • Blaming or always saying it was the person’s fault for “causing” the argument.
  • Passing abuse off as a joke – shaming, insulting, swearing or belittling them and then saying, “I was only joking” or “You’re too sensitive”.
  • Refusing to talk to the person and giving the silent treatment.

Long-term effects of verbal abuse on victims can include low self-esteem, self-doubt, self-harm and anxiety. Victims may also find it difficult to make decisions and doubt their own ability to communicate.

What is emotional abuse and is it considered domestic violence?

Yes, it is domestic violence. Emotional abuse involves controlling another person by using emotions to criticise, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate them. Domestic violence does not have to involve physical abuse.

When someone is charged with domestic violence, what happens?

If the police decide that there is enough evidence to charge someone with a domestic violence offence, they will provide the alleged offender (defendant) with a Court Attendance Notice (CAN). The CAN will have the details of the charges the date, time and location of the court where it is to be mentioned.

Once at court, if the allegations are denied by the defendant, a plea of not guilty will be entered. The court will then set a date for a contested hearing. Prior to the hearing date, the police will serve a copy of the brief of evidence to the defendant. If the allegations are admitted, a plea of guilty will be entered. The court will then proceed to sentence the defendant or set a sentencing date.

As domestic violence is taken very seriously, a conviction is likely even for first-time offenders. However, the likely penalty for domestic violence offences ultimately depends on the circumstances of the offence/s, the circumstances of the offender and any criminal history the offender has.

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