Domestic violence is also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse or intimate partner violence. It isn't limited to physical violence, but can take many different forms, and can affect anyone regardless of their age, economic status, race, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation. While women are more likely to be affected by domestic violence, men can also be victims.
The content on this page has been written in consultation with the Migrant Women's Support Service , and we thank them for their involvement. Their contact details can be found in the support section.
Violence against women is against the law in Australia, and every person living here has the right to a life that's free of violence. Violence that occurs at home or between partners is referred to as “domestic violence”. It's defined as a pattern of abusive behaviours inflicted on one person by another within a relationship, marriage or family. It is estimated that as many as one in three women living in Australia experiences physical violence, and one in five experiences sexual violence, at some point in their lives.
- Types of Abuse
The term domestic violence covers more than just physical abuse. It also includes psychological abuse, verbal abuse, sexual assault, social abuse, stalking and economic abuse.
If your partner, husband, boyfriend or a family member
- physically harms you, threatens to harm you, or uses violent behaviour to frighten you,
- forces you into sexual acts that you don't want or don't consent to,
- puts you down and/or emotionally torments you,
- prevents you from leaving your home or contacting your family and friends,
- tries to stop you from practising your religion, or
- deprives you of basic needs that are essential for your well-being, such as food or sleep,
then you have been experiencing domestic violence.
Domestic violence also includes violence committed by a family member (such as a parent, sibling or grandparent). This is referred to as family violence.
- Impact of Abuse
Women can find it very difficult to talk about intimate issues such as violent relationships, especially when they're separated from supportive family members and trusted friends. If you've been the victim of violence, you may feel ashamed or worried about what other students, your friends and your community will think. Leaving a violent relationship or getting support can also be difficult if you come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, especially if you don't know anyone in Australia, or are being pressured by your community to stay in the relationship. You may feel that you are to blame for the violence that you've experienced. In some cultures the topic of domestic violence is even considered a social taboo and is not discussed. However, this “code of silence” is not part of Australian culture, which means that it's okay to speak out and ask for help. Violence is never the victim's fault, and seeking help and protection is crucial to stop the damaging impact of violence.
“... I was new in this country, I was scared of the police and I had no idea about my rights...” Migrant Women's Support Service user
“...It never occurred to me to talk about what has been going on in home – it was something to be ashamed of as it would reflect badly on me… If I talked to anyone from my own community they would be sure to disapprove of me…” Migrant Women's Support Service user
“I felt I would have brought shame on my family by splitting my children from their father” Migrant Women's Support Service user
- Legal Responses
Domestic violence is a crime. Committing acts of domestic violence is illegal in Australia, and if someone commits a violent act against you, then you have the right to ask for help and protection from the police. It is the duty of the South Australian Police Force to ensure the safety of all people living in South Australia, regardless of their nationality, gender or age. Everyone has the right to feel safe.
In Australia the main roles of the police are: crime prevention, victim protection and the prosecution of offenders.
Police assistance is free of charge, and seeking the assistance of police as a victim will not affect your visa status. To contact the police in an emergency call 000; if the situation isn't an immediate emergency you can also call 131 444 or go to a police station in person.
If you need assistance to communicate in English, you're entitled to ask the police to provide you with an interpreter.
- Police Assistance
The South Australian Police Force recognises that domestic violence has a damaging impact on not only victims, but also their children, family and friends. The police give the highest priority to the protection and ongoing safety of victims and their children. They try to ensure that the person for the violence is held accountable for their actions.
If you choose to contact police, they can assist you in the following ways:
- by making a police incident report about an event that has just occurred,
- by taking a statement from you about the violence you've experienced,
- by issuing an Intervention Order,
- by pressing criminal charges against the person who has abused you, and
- by arresting the perpetrator.
However, if you choose not to take action for any reason, the police will respect your decision.
Victim Protection can include:
- police attending your home to stop immediate violence,
- police issuing an interim Intervention Order against the person who has acted violently towards you, to remove them from your home, and
- police overseeing you as you leave the property to ensure your safety, and helping to arrange emergency accommodation and support services for you and your children if you need them.
“...I was new in this country, I was scared of the police and I had no idea about my rights...” Migrant Women's Support Service user
“...I feared I might have to leave country if I talked to any authorities... Migrant Women's Support Service user.
“...My relative told me that I have to do exactly as he told me since I was staying with his family. What would my family back home say if I reported him?...” Migrant Women's Support Service user
- Intervention Orders
An Intervention Order is an order issued by the police or the courts, that forbids a perpetrator from harassing, threatening or abusing you, or being violent towards you. The perpetrator may be banned from coming to your home and workplace, following you, or contacting you or members of your family. Alternatively, the perpetrator may be ordered to do certain things, such as move out of your home. If someone has been given an Intervention Order it is against the law for them to disobey it, so if they do you should tell the police.
Regularly witnessing domestic violence can have serious consequences for a child’s development. Children who are forced to witness domestic violence, or who are victims of it, may have difficulty learning the new skills they need to help them adjust and function in a new country. Intervention Orders are designed to protect them from violence and help them adapt.
Whether or not you are contemplating separation or divorce from an abusive partner, it is useful to know how Family Law operates. If children are involved, you may need to get legal advice to help you decide whether you should apply to the Family Court for a Family Court Order, and it is important to be aware that in some cases the conditions in a Family Court Order may override any conditions which have been made by an Intervention Order. For advice about legal issues, you can contact the Women's Legal Service on 8221 5553.
- Support Services
In Australia it is not considered shameful to seek help for domestic violence.
If you would like to to speak with someone about your situation in confidence, and look at the options available to you, there are many services you can contact. There are support services for women that can help if you require counselling or other assistance, or if you just want to discuss your situation. You can contact
- Student Life Counselling Support (Ground Floor, Horace Lamb Building) – 8313 5663
- Police Assistance – 131 444
- Domestic Violence & Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway Service – 1800 800 098
- Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 737 732
- Migrant Women's Support Service – 8346 9417
- Telephone Interpreting Service – 131 450
- Women's Legal Service – 8221 5553
- Victims Support Service SA – 1800 842846
If you are a victim of domestic violence from a non-English speaking background, and you need support and assistance, please call the Migrant Women’s Support Service on 8346 9417.
- Government Resources
The Australian Government, through the Department of Social Services, has prepared a number of resources aimed at helping people gain access to the support services they need should they experience domestic violence. Click on the links below to download the .pdf documents.