Family Law Divorce

What does Family Violence include and who is a Family Member?

Family violence in Victoria is legally defined by Section 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008. The law defines family violence very broadly and includes:

  1. Physical abuse (e.g. hitting, punching, slapping, kicking);
  2. Sexual abuse (e.g. sexual assault, rape, sexually coercive behaviour, sexually degrading insults);
  3. Emotional and psychological abuse (e.g. blaming someone for all of your problems, embarrassing someone in public, threatening suicide, hurting pets);
  4. Verbal abuse (e.g. name-calling, threats of violence, putting someone down constantly);
  5. Economic abuse (e.g. controlling all of the finances, restricting access to bank accounts, providing an inadequate ‘allowance’, stopping someone from working or using money);
  6. Damaging property (including jointly owned property);
  7. Other threatening or coercive behaviour;
  8. Any action that controls or dominates a family member, and causes that family member to fear for themselves or someone else; and
  9. Exposing a child to any of the above behaviours (e.g. if a child overhears name-calling, sees someone with a physical injury, or has to clean up broken household items after a fight.)

Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, a particular behaviour may constitute family violence in one situation, but the same behaviour in another circumstance may not be considered family violence. You should always seek legal advice if you believe you are the victim of family violence or are being accused of committing family violence. If you have any concerns about your safety at any time, you should call 000 immediately.

Family violence can only occur between family members. The legal definition of a ‘family member’ includes domestic partners (e.g. boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, de facto partners) and any person who has an ‘intimate relationship’ with the relevant person. It also includes a person’s immediate family – such as a partner, parent, or child – as well as siblings, aunties/uncles, and extended relatives. In some cultures, a ‘family member’ can include people with no genetic link to you, and the court can decide whether or not someone is family for the purposes of an intervention order.

If someone is harassing, controlling, or stalking you but they have not had an intimate relationship with you and are not related to you, then the Family Violence Protection Act will not apply. Instead, a ‘Personal Safety Intervention Order’ should be considered.