What is family violence?

Family violence is behaviour of another family member that makes you fearful, makes you do things you don’t want to, or is used to control you.

This section will help you to understand:

  • what family violence includes
  • what you can do if you are worried about family violence
  • how the family law deals with cases involving family violence.
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If you are in immediate danger, phone 000.  For non-emergency help from the police, call 131 444.

What is family violence?

Family violence means:

  • violence, or a threat of violence, by someone towards a family member, or
  • any other behaviour that coerces or controls another family member, or causes them to be fearful.
What behaviour can be considered family violence?

Family violence is not just physical violence or threats of violence. It can include forms of financial, emotional and psychological abuse.

Some examples of the behaviour that is considered as family violence include:

  • assaults – being hit, kicked, pushed, spat on
  • sexual assault
  • stalking or cyber-stalking
  • repeated insults or critical comments
  • damaging or destroying property
  • killing or injuring an animal belonging to a family member
  • controlling finances or being unreasonable about providing money
  • keeping a family member away from their family, friends or culture
  • kidnapping or depriving someone of their freedom
  • sharing or threatening to share intimate personal pictures/videos 
  • exposing a child to any other acts of family violence.
When are children ‘exposed’ to violence?

A child is exposed to violence if they see, hear or experience the effects of violence, such as:

  • overhearing threats of violence
  • seeing or hearing an assault
  • helping or comforting someone who has been assaulted
  • cleaning up a place after an incident of violence or property damage, or
  • being there when police or ambulance officers come after an incident of violence.

How can I stay safe if I am concerned about family violence?

If you are experiencing or at risk of family violence, there are steps you can take to increase your safety and that of your children. You may need to take immediate action to make yourself safe as well as plan for the future. Depending on your circumstances, you may decide to apply for a restraining order or other orders to help protect you from family violence.

How does the law deal with situations of family violence?

There are several important ways that the law recognises people experiencing or at risk of family violence. This includes how the family law works in in parenting cases involving family violence, as well as giving special consideration in immigration applications for permanent residency.


Reviewed : 20 April 2018


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.