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What is Violence?

There are many forms of violence.

This page provides information about some of the different types of violence and how to recognise them.

Watch the 1800RESPECT video (external website) about violence:

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

Violence against women

Violence against women is one of the biggest human rights issues in the world. It is one of the main things that stops us achieving equality between men and women.

The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."

Violence against women happens in many forms, in many places. This can include in the family, the community, at work, in politics, in sport, in educational settings, on the internet and when using services.

Violence against women can affect some women in different ways. For example, women with disability experience all forms of violence more often and more severely than women without disability. Women with disability are also subjected to violence by more people and in more places.

1800RESPECT
If you experience violence or abuse you can contact 1800RESPECT for support and counselling.
Call 1800 737 732 or chat to someone online (external link).

Types of violence


Domestic and family violence

Domestic and family violence happens when one person in a relationship hurts the other person in the relationship or makes them feel unsafe. This can happen in different kinds of relationships, including:

  • intimate partner relationships (husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends)
  • relationships with grandparents, parents, guardians, siblings, children and other family members
  • relationships with ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • relationships with carers and support workers if they have become “family like"
  • relationships with people you live with, in family homes, group homes or residential settings.

Emotional violence

Emotional violence is when someone says or does things that frighten and confuse you, make you feel bad about yourself or hurt your feelings. This is also called psychological abuse.  Emotional violence can include someone:  

  • embarrassing you in public
  • threatening to harm you, other people, or things that are important to you, including your property or pets
  • treating you badly because of things you can’t change, like your religion, race, disability, gender, sexuality or what you look like
  • threatening to ‘out’ someone to their family, friends, community or workplace (outing can include someone’s gender, sexuality, intersex status or HIV status)
  • ignoring you when you need help or are trying to communicate
  • accusing you of things that you have not done.

Physical violence

Physical violence is when someone deliberately hurts your body. It is also called physical abuse.

Physical abuse can be anything that causes pain to any part of your body. This can include someone doing things to you like:

  • hitting, punching or slapping you
  • tying or locking you up, or restraining you
  • forcing you to take medicine, alcohol or drugs
  • taking away medicine or equipment that you need
  • physically forcing you to have sex (this is also a form of sexual violence).

Watch the 1800RESPECT video (external website) about physical violence:

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is when you are forced, pressured or tricked into doing sexual things that you don’t want to do by another person. This can be a partner, friend, family member, carer, support worker or even a stranger. Some other words used to describe sexual violence are sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape.

Rape is a form of sexual assault that involves someone forcing a body part or object into your anus or vagina. Rape can also be someone forcing their genitals into your mouth or forcing you to put your mouth on their genitals.

Sexual violence can include someone doing sexual things to you without your consent. Like:  

  • forcing you to have sex
  • trying to have sex with you while you are asleep
  • touching your genitals or private parts
  • showing their genitals or masturbating in front of you
  • showing you porn or other sexual materials
  • making comments about you in a sexual way (this is also called sexual harassment)
  • requesting sex from you in exchange for helping you or supporting you.

Sexual health violence

Sexual health violence is when someone does not let you make your own choices about sexual health. This is also called reproductive violence. Sexual health violence includes:

  • controlling or taking away your contraception
  • making you have unprotected sex
  • forcing you to have a baby or an abortion
  • forcing you to start or continue a pregnancy
  • forcing you to take medication to stop your periods or to manage your menstrual cycle in a certain way
  • forcing you to have an operation to stop you from being able to have a baby (this is called sterilisation)
  • controlling your access to sexual health information or services.

Online violence

Online violence is also called cyber-violence or cyber-bulling. Online violence is when someone is violent towards you over the internet or social media. This can include:

  • sending you harassing emails
  • bullying you on social media
  • posting or sending photos or videos of you without your consent
  • threatening to hurt you through an online forum like Facebook or email
  • tracking where you are
  • pressuring you to share revealing photos of yourself
  • pressuring you to meet them in person
  • stalking you with spyware or monitoring devices (external link)
  • taking your personal information from your private online profile or browser history and sharing it without your permission
  • stealing your personal information or bank details.
 Tip: You can learn more about online violence on the Staying safe online page.


Stalking

Stalking is when someone will not leave you alone or does not respect your privacy even after you have asked them to. This can be in person or over technology. It may include someone:

  • constantly making unwanted phone calls to you or sending you harassing or unwanted emails, faxes, letters or gifts
  • hanging around near your home, workplace or school
  • spying on you or following you in person or through the use of electronic devices or social media.
Tip: Stalking is often accompanied by harassment. You can learn more about what harassment is on the Disability and discrimination page.

Institutional violence

Institutional violence is when groups or organisations like hospitals, group homes, nursing homes and schools are violent towards you or try to control you in ways that are not good for you. This can include:

  • locking you in a place or putting you in restraints that you cannot get out of and do not need
  • making you take medication you do not want to take
  • treating you badly because you have a disability
  • not letting you make choices about what you eat or when you go to bed.

Neglect

Neglect can happen when a person or people who care for you do not give you the things that you need to be healthy, comfortable and safe. This can include things like:

  • not having enough personal care and support
  • not being allowed to go out
  • not having people to talk to
  • not being able to get to medical appointments
  • not being able to do things that you enjoy.

Watch the 1800RESPECT video (external website) about neglect:

 Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is when someone uses money in ways that hurt you, or when someone controls your money in ways that are not good for you. This can include someone:

  • not letting you choose how to spend your money
  • stopping you from getting a job
  • forcing you to get a loan you do not want to
  • forcing to you buy things for others or to give them your money
  • controlling paying bills and telling you that you are not able to do it
  • forcing you to sign contracts that you do not understand or don't want to sign
  • keeping a card to your bank account when you don’t want them to
  • not letting you manage your NDIS plan if you want to.

Where violence happens

Violence can happen in any relationship, including with:

  • boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
  • ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • carers or support workers
  • parents, guardians or other family members
  • adult children
  • other people you live with or see often.
Tip: You can learn more about violence by downloading our Fact Sheet: What is Violence? or visiting the 1800RESPECT website (external link).

How do I know if I am in a violent relationship?

Violence in relationships can take many forms, and sometimes it can be hard to recognise it when you are experiencing it. This is particularly true for the types of violence that are not physical.

If you feel unsafe in a relationship or feel that you need to be careful about what you say or do in a relationship to avoid confrontation or punishment, you may be experiencing violence.

Tip: You can download our Checklist: Are You Experiencing Violence?

Important Resources

Publications
WWDA Position Statement 1: Right to Freedom from Violence
Information from WWDA about the right to safety from all forms of violence and abuse.
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External website
1800RESPECT
A 24-hour confidential information, counselling and support service. Phone or chat online now.
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Checklist
Our Site Checklist: Are You Experiencing Violence?
Violence can be hard to recognise when you are the one experiencing it. This checklist can help you identify if you are experiencing violence.
Apple App Store
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Guides
Our Site Fact Sheet: What is Violence?
A WWDA fact sheet about the different types of violence.
Apple App Store
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Visit Website
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External website
Commonwealth Bank: Addressing Financial Abuse
A website providing a series of booklets to help people recognise financial abuse and get help.
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Apps
Sunny App
A free app for women with disability who have experienced violence and abuse.
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External website
1800RESPECT: Financial Abuse Toolkit
An online toolkit to help you understand financial abuse and get help when you need it.
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Guides
1800 Respect Easy English Book 1 - Learn About Violence
Easy English book about violence.
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Guides
1800 Respect Easy English Book 2 - Learn About Rights
Easy English book about your right to be safe from violence.
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Guides
1800 Respect Easy English Book 3 - Where Violence Happens and Who Can Do Violence
Easy English book about where violence happesns and who can do violence.
Apple App Store
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Guides
WWILD: You Deserve To Be Safe (Sexual Assault)
An Easy Read booklet about Sexual Assault
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Guides
WWILD: You Deserve To Be Safe (Violence)
An Easy Read booklet about violence and how you can be safe.
Apple App Store
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Where to next:

External website
Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
Information about the Disability Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, including how to make a submission.
Apple App Store
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Accessible Word File
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External website
Family Violence Law Help
A website where you can learn about domestic and family violence and the law in Australia.
Apple App Store
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Visit Website
Accessible Word File
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Images
Know Your A-Z: Violence Against Women
A poster by OurWatch with information about preventing violence against women.
Apple App Store
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Visit Website
Accessible Word File
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Listen Now
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Apps
Daisy App
A free app that connects women around Australia to services that support women who are experiencing or have been subjected to violence.
Apple App Store
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Visit Website
Accessible Word File
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Listen Now
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External website
WWILD
WWILD supports people with intellectual or learning disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse or have been victims of crime. WWILD also works with the families, carers and services who support them.
Apple App Store
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Visit Website
Accessible Word File
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External website
Compass: Guiding Action on Elder Abuse
A national website to help you understand, navigating and get help with elder abuse in Australia.
Apple App Store
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