Domestic Violence Laws and How to Seek Help

Domestic Violence Laws and How to Seek Help

Domestic violence (also known as family violence) is disturbingly common and one of the most underreported crimes in Australia. Often these crimes aren’t reported because the victim is in some way reliant on the perpetrator, be that emotionally, financially or otherwise. However, sometimes these crimes aren’t reported because victims and those around them don’t understand what domestic violence is and how to recognise when it is occurring.

Each State and Territory in Australia has specific laws on domestic. This post focuses on NSW law, however there are many similarities between the State laws.

What is domestic violence and family violence?

The definition of domestic violence is broad. Essentially, it is any behaviour that is carried out by a family member (not necessarily genetically related), partner or carer that is aimed at controlling, dominating, intimidating, humiliating or instilling fear in the victim.

There are several different types of domestic violence. The categories of abuse in NSW are verbal, psychological, emotional, physical, sexual, social, financial and harassment and stalking abuse. There is some overlap in the categories and a victim may experience multiple forms of abuse simultaneously.


Verbal abuse can include continual:

  • Swearing and humiliation in public or privately.
  • Attacking the victim’s physical appearance.
  • Attacking the victim’s sexuality.
  • Insulting the victim’s personality.
  • Telling the victim they aren’t capable in their job or role within the household.


Psychological abuse can include:

  • Violence towards family pets.
  • Threatening to take away the victim’s children.
  • Telling the victim that the police, their family and other authorities won’t believe or support them.
  • Destroying property.


Emotional abuse can include:

  • Severe mood swings and behavioural change.
  • Blaming the victim for the perpetrator’s behaviour.
  • Threatening or emotionally blackmailing the victim (“If you do x, I will do y”).


Physical abuse can include:

  • Directly assaulting the victim’s body such as hitting, punching, kicking, spitting or choking.
  • Using an object or weapon to assault the victim.
  • Assaulting children who live in the household.
  • Depriving the victim of sleep.
  • Locking the victim in or out of the house.
  • Denying the victim access to necessary medication, food or medical attention.
  • Forcing the victim to take drugs.


Sexual abuse can include:

  • Pressuring, coercing or forcing the victim to do or participate in a sexual act.
  • Causing the victim pain during sexual acts.
  • Assaulting the victim’s genitals.
  • Taking or distributing explicit photographs or footage without the victim’s consent.
  • Criticising, insulting or degrading the victim sexually.


Social abuse can include:

  • Controlling and/or limiting the victim’s access to their friends and family.
  • Being consistently rude to the victim’s family and friends so that their contact with the victim decreases.
  • Monitoring, limiting and/or forbidding the victim from meeting new people.
  • Controlling the victim’s access to a telephone and/or car.


Financial abuse can include:

  • Controlling the victim’s access to money.
  • Using the victim’s whole wage to pay for household expenses.
  • Giving the victim a limited and insufficient allowance.
  • Not allowing the victim to have a paid job.
  • Coercing or forcing the victim to sign financial documents or false statements.
  • Controlling the victim’s pension.

Harassment and Stalking

Harassment and stalking can include:

  • Continually or aggressively contacting and/or attacking the victim online or via telephone.
  • Tracking the victim with Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Following and watching the victim or having another person follow and watch the victim.
  • Intimidating the victim.

What to do if you or someone you know is experiencing (or you suspect is experiencing) domestic violence

If you or someone you know is in a life-threatening or urgent and immediate domestic violence situation, call the police on 000.

If you would like to report a crime, but the situation isn’t immediate and life threatening, you can call the police directly or go into your local police station to make a report.

If you would like to speak to someone in person or over the telephone about a domestic violence situation, you can:

  • Call or go in person to your local police station and ask if there is someone you can speak to who handles domestic violence enquiries. You can also ask to speak with a female police officer if that makes you feel more comfortable.
  • Call a domestic violence hotline such as 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) who are available 24/7.
  • Call or go in person to your local Legal Aid, Community Legal Centre or Women’s Legal Centre.

Most domestic violence support services such as women’s refuges, advocacy groups and other programs operate in localised areas. You can ask the domestic violence hotline, the police officer or legal centre for more information about the services available in your area.

Remember that domestic violence is a crime. Domestic violence should be reported to the police so that they can make a record of it. The victim can then decide later whether to take legal action.

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