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Domestic violence definition

What is the definition of domestic violence?

Domestic violence refers to violence, abuse and intimidation between people who are or have been in an intimate relationship. The perpetrator uses violence to control and dominate the other person. This causes fear, physical harm and/or psychological harm. Domestic violence is a violation of human rights.

Domestic violence in Australia can include:

  • emotional abuse
  • physical assault
  • sexual assault
  • verbal abuse
  • financial abuse
  • psychological abuse
  • isolating a woman from her friends and family
  • stopping a woman from practicing her religion.

You can find more information on the types of domestic violence in Australia on our website and in the White Ribbon fact sheets.

Family violence

Some communities, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, prefer the term ‘family violence’ to domestic violence. Family violence refers to violence between family members (for example children and parents) as well as intimate partners. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the term ‘family violence’ better reflects their understanding and experience of violence. [i]


[i] Phillips, J & Vandenbroek, P (2014) Domestic, family and sexual violence in Australia: an overview of the issues. Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra.

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