The NSW Government Policy ‘Stop the Violence – End the Silence NSW Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan’ (NSW Premier and Cabinet Office For Women’s Policy, page 17) describes the range of behaviours associated with domestic and family violence to include:

  • Physical abuse – direct assaults on the body (shaking, slapping, pushing), use of weapons, driving dangerously, destruction of property, abuse of pets in front of family members, assault of children, locking the victim out of the house, and sleep deprivation.
  • Sexual abuse – any form of forced sex or sexual degradation, such as sexual activity without consent, causing pain during sex, assaulting genitals, coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually-transmitted disease, making the victim perform sexual acts unwillingly, criticising, or using sexually-degrading insults.
  • Emotional abuse – blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, sporadic sulking, withdrawing all interest and engagement (e.g. weeks of silence), blackmail.
  • Verbal abuse – continual ‘put downs’ and humiliation, either privately or publicly, with attacks following clear themes that focus on intelligence, sexuality, body image and capacity as a parent and spouse. 
  • Social abuse – systematic isolation from family and friends through techniques such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends, moving to locations where the victim knows nobody, and forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people. 
  • Economic abuse – complete control of all monies, no access to bank accounts, providing only an inadequate ‘allowance’, using any wages earned by the victim for household expenses. 
  • Spiritual abuse – denying access to ceremonies, land or family, preventing religious observance, forcing victims to do things against their beliefs, denigration of cultural background, or using religious teachings or cultural tradition as a reason for violence.

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse favours a definition of domestic violence adopted by the Commonwealth Partnership Against Domestic Violence Program which states:

‘Domestic violence is an abuse of power perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men against women both in relationships and after separation. It occurs when one partner attempts physically or psychologically to dominate and control the other. Domestic violence takes a number of forms. The most commonly acknowledged forms are physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional and social abuse and economic deprivation. Many forms of domestic violence are against the law. (From Partnerships Against Domestic Violence Statement of Principles, agreed by the Australian Heads of Government at the 1997 National Domestic Violence Summit).'

The Code of Practice for the NSW Police Force response to Domestic and Family Violence(Code of Practice, pg 6) notes:

Many forms of domestic and family violence are criminal. These include: physical violence, sexual assault, stalking, property damage, threats and homicide. Other forms of domestic and family violence, while not categorised as criminal offences, can be just as harmful to victims and their families, including the use of coercive or controlling behaviours that may cause a person to live in fear, or to suffer emotional and psychological torment, financial deprivation or social isolation.'