On this page, we look at domestic violence, the consequences, and how domestic violence counselling can empower you to lead a happier life.
If you are in crisis and need immediate advice to protect your safety, please go to our crisis resources section here for free crisis support lines or call 000.
What is domestic violence counselling?
Domestic violence inflicts immeasurable and long-term suffering on survivors. It’s not just physical violence but refers to a range of abusive behaviour – often recurring and progressing in severity – that seeks to control or dominate through fear.
Domestic violence can affect anyone, anytime, anywhere; regardless of culture, sexuality, or gender identity – though, it tends to be perpetrated by male partners, from a current or past relationship, and towards women.
Domestic violence counselling provides survivors of violence with tools to manage or exit a relationship, as well as deal with the consequences of a past relationship. This includes empowering survivors to:
- Understand the choices available and take charge of decisions
- Repair self-esteem
- Regain trust in healthy relationships
- Navigate the warning signs of domestic violence
- Assess and respond to danger
- Gain information and access to community support services
Domestic violence counselling helps perpetrators of violence learn healthy ways to express themselves and manage their emotions. This includes empowering perpetrators to:
- Acknowledge destructive behaviours
- Understand the damage to their relationship, themselves, and spectators
- Understand their capacity to let go of violent patterns
- Practice healthy behaviours patterns
If you’re unsure that you’re experiencing domestic violence, a qualified counsellor can help you clarify what’s happening in your current relationship, or what happened in the past.
Who is affected by domestic violence?
Domestic violence can occur in any relationship. You don’t have to live with someone to experience domestic violence. It can affect you even if you have left the relationship.
Domestic violence can occur in relationships with:
- Present and past intimate partners
- Parents and guardians
- Culturally recognised family groups
Domestic violence can be perpetrated by women towards men; by strangers, regardless of their gender; and towards the elderly, or people with a disability. Most domestic violence, however, is perpetrated by men against women and children.
As of 2016, 2.2 million Australians had suffered physical or sexual assault from a partner (1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men), and 3.6 million had suffered emotional abuse (25 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men).
People in lesbian, gay, or queer relationships experience domestic violence as often as cisgender women in heterosexual relationships. And people with LGBTIQ identities experience domestic violence as often as people with heterosexual identities.
For Australian women, domestic violence is the primary driver of homelessness – and homeless people are especially vulnerable, with 42 per cent of clients to specialist homelessness services experiencing domestic violence.
People with a disability experience higher rates of emotional abuse (1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men).
Indigenous Australians were hospitalised for domestic violence at 32 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians in 2016-17.
There is little variance in rates of domestic violence according to economic status – domestic violence occurs in middle- and high-income households.
The numbers only tell part of the story – many survivors of domestic violence choose not to report their experiences.
What are the types of domestic violence?
- Any violent act towards a person’s body, children, pets, or property
- May involve punching, pushing, kicking, choking, or the use of weapons
- Forcing unwanted sex or sexual acts
- Forcing a person to dress in ways they don’t want to
Verbal or Emotional Abuse
- Behaviours that harm a person’s self-esteem
- Yelling and name-calling
- Verbal threats
- Refusing to talk
- Undermining parenthood in front of children
- Publishing information or photos against a person’s will
- Forcing a person to do or believe things against their will
- Confiscating a person’s phone or transport
- Controlling a person’s decisions
- Prohibiting or forcing religious participation
- Lying about a person
- Isolating a person from their support system
- Preventing someone from leaving the house
- Intimidating through surveillance, both on and offline
- Repeated phone calls, messages, or emails
- Unwanted gifts
- Unwanted attention
- Monitoring or following
- Creating financial dependence
- Confiscating a person’s money
- Preventing someone from working
- Making someone justify spending
- Forcing signatures on financial documents
- Reminding someone they are financially dependent
What are the signs of domestic violence?
Survivors of domestic violence may have repeated physical injuries like bruises, scratches, or burns. They might conceal their injuries or not provide logical explanations for them.
But physical abuse is just one type of domestic violence. Other types of domestic violence can be harder to spot, but there are signs to look out for:
- They seem more quiet than usual or have lost confidence
- They seem afraid
- They blame themselves
- They have stopped seeing friends or family
- Their partner or family member controls their decisions, or humiliates them in front of others
- They say their partner or family member controls their money
- They say their partner is extremely jealous
- They say their partner or family member forces unwanted sexual acts
How do you know if you need domestic violence counselling?
Survivors of violence can benefit from domestic violence counselling.
Survivors of violence may experience emotional symptoms, including constantly anticipating abuse, or despairing that it will never end. Emotional symptoms include:
- Anxiety or agitation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Depression or despair
- Chronic fear
- Believing that your responsible or deserving of the violence
- Flashbacks or nightmares about domestic violence
- Strong reactions to any mention or reminder of domestic violence
Survivors of violence experience physical symptoms. Even when the abuse is not physical, psychological distress can have physical consequences. Physical symptoms include:
- Chronic tension or pain
- Interrupted sleep
- Genital irritation
- Pelvic pain
Are you a perpetrator or abuser of family violence?
If you are or suspect that you are a perpetrator of violence, the best thing you can do is acknowledge the problem. Acknowledgement will help you embrace change and learn emotional management tools, free of blame and excuses.
If you’re unsure, ask yourself if you have:
- Often put them down, criticised, or called them names in front of others
- Made physical threats to them, their children, or property
- Punched, kicked, slapped, or restrained
- Forced unwanted sexual acts
- Isolated them from work, friends, or family
- Expressed extreme jealousy
- Made decisions for them
- Confiscated their phone or transport
- Controlled their money or forced them to sign financial documents
Our counselling services offer support for family violence abusers
If you answered yes to any of these questions, Life Supports Counselling has expert psychologists and counsellors to help you stop using violence.
We empower perpetrators to realise their capacity for change – to let go of violent patterns and gain healthy tools to express themselves.
Anger management counselling helps you identify your underlying concerns – whether hurt, shame, fear, or grief. This can enable you to recognise your anger triggers and choose more productive responses.
Life Supports family violence counsellors and psychologists
We empower survivors of violence to understand the choices available, repair their confidence, and regain trust in healthy relationships.
Even if you feel unsure that what you’re experiencing is domestic violence, speaking to a qualified counsellor can help clarify what’s happening in your current relationship, or what happened in a past relationship.
Supportive Domestic violence services in Australia
If you are experiencing domestic violence in any form, there are services to support you.
There are many other support services to help you:
1800RESPECT is a free domestic violence counselling service open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
P: 1800 737 732
Kids Helpline is a free counselling service for people aged 5 to 25.
P: 1800 551 800
Lifeline is a free counselling service that helps people experiencing domestic violence.
P: 131 114
Family Relationship Advice assists with family issues, including separation and domestic violence.
P: 1800 050 321
The Elder Abuse Help Line provides free information and support. The Service Finder can help you find services in your area.
P: 1800 353 374
Compass provides information on elder abuse and can help you find local support services.
HYPERLINK INCLUDED: https://www.compass.info/
Women with Disability
Sunny provides information on domestic violence and assists women with a disability to access support services.
MensLine Australia provides support to both survivors and perpetrators of violence perpetrators, online and over the phone.
P: 1300 789 978
Men’s Referral Service is a free counselling and referral service to help men stop using violence, available online at the No to Violence website and over the phone.
P: 1300 766 491
Financial Counselling Australia offers free financial counselling to help people experiencing domestic violence.
P: 1800 007 007
National Legal Aid connects you to legal assistance in your state or territory. It provides free information sessions and phone advice.