What is family violence?
Violence is any act that makes another person feel fearful and unsafe. Family violence can include:
- physical abuse;
- sexual abuse;
- psychological abuse;
- emotional abuse;
- verbal abuse;
- financial abuse;
- damage to property;
- injury to animals;
- publishing on the internet and other electronic communications.
Essentially, family violence is any form of threatening, coercive, controlling or dominating behaviour that makes a family member fear for their safety or wellbeing or for the safety or wellbeing of another person.
Family violence is mostly, but not exclusively, perpetrated by men against women and children.
Definition of family violence in the legislation
‘Family violence’ is defined in section 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (‘FVP Act’). The FVP Act (ss 5–7) gives examples of the different forms of family violence.
Child abuse is family violence
In respect of a child, child abuse is a form of family violence and includes behaviour that causes a child to hear, to witness, or to otherwise be exposed to the effects of family violence.
Examples of such behaviour are listed in section 5(1)(b) of the FVP Act. These include overhearing threats of physical abuse, seeing or hearing an assault of a family member by another family member, comforting or providing assistance to a family member who has been physically abused, cleaning up a site after property has been intentionally damaged, and being present when police officers attend a family violence incident.
Cases where children are the direct victims of child abuse (e.g. they are the victims of physical or sexual abuse) are dealt with by the relevant state authority and in the Children’s Court (see Chapter 1.4: The Children’s Court).