What is family violence?

Family violence is:

violence and abuse by one person towards their partner, children, or other family member.

This includes violence by:

  • partners – married, living together, or ex
  • same sex partners
  • boyfriends or girlfriends
  • parents
  • grandparents
  • older children
  • other whänau or family members or people in a close personal relationship including flatmates and caregivers.

Separation is the most dangerous time for victims of violence – women and children are particularly at risk from death and serious violence when a relationship is ending. Having good support is vital.

It’s more than just physical

Family violence has many forms, it is not just physical. It includes:

  • Physical abuse – hitting, kicking, biting, pushing, strangulation, using weapons.
  • Psychological abuse – threats to harm you, themselves or others, name calling, jealousy, put downs, stalking and online stalking, controlling what you say, do and wear.
  • Sexual abuse – rape, forced sexual activity, unwanted touching, sexual activity with a child or young person under 16.
  • Financial abuse – taking your money, running up debts in your name, checking all receipts.
  • Neglect – not providing food, shelter, clothing, leaving children home alone, not getting medical attention.
  • Spiritual abuse – abuser does not allow the victim the freedom to follow their own faith or beliefs – all forms of violence attacks the victim’s soul or spirit.

Family violence is often hidden

Family violence often happens in the home, or where no one else is around. People who are being abused, and those who commit violence, often feel shame and guilt, so they hide the violence and make excuses. Some violent people can appear charming, polite and loving around other people.

Family violence can happen to anyone

People of any age, ethnicity, socio-economic group, gender, sexuality, or age can and do experience family violence – it is not limited to one particular group.

Family violence is more than just a bad relationship

It’s when one person dominates or controls their family members. The abuser uses intimidation, fear and abuse to maintain that control.

Danger signs

An adult or child may be in danger of being killed or seriously harmed if the abuser:

  • has made them very afraid
  • has recently separated from them, or a court order has just been issued
  • has made threats to kill or commit suicide
  • shows excessively jealous or controlling behaviour
  • is stalking or following them
  • has previously committed family violence (especially if it is getting more severe and frequent)
  • isolates them
  • has aggravating problems (drug or alcohol misuse, mental health problems)
  • is violent to others (fights with and intimidates others at work or in public, or harms animals).