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Relationship violence (domestic violence)

Relationship; violence; domestic; youth; young; people; abuse; domestic violence; anger; legal;

If you are in a relationship with someone who is being abusive towards you, this is not healthy and you may need help to stay safe. Not all abuse is physical. It can also be emotional, verbal, social, sexual, neglect and financial exploitation.

Many people have experienced abuse. You do not need to be ashamed of what someone else does. Violence aimed at you is not your fault and you do not have to cover it up for someone else. Your safety and happiness are most important. You have the right to feel safe and to not live in fear.

The website Reachout has many good topics about relationship violence. Reachout is an Australian website for young people when times get tough.  

Their topics include:


Content of this topic

In urgent situations
If you need emergency assistance, call the police immediately (000 in Australia). Other 
Resources are listed below. There is information in languages other than English on the site of the Migrant Women's Support Service 

Signs of abuse

A healthy relationship makes you feel loved, respected and able to be yourself. Here are some warning signs that you could be in an unhealthy relationship:

  • You do things to avoid your partner getting angry because you are nervous about what might happen.
  • Your partner is constantly putting you down or checking every detail of what you do or feel.
  • Your friends aren’t welcome.
  • There are threats of suicide if you leave.
  • Your partner yells a lot, has punched holes in the wall, or hit you.
  • Your partner is very possessive and accuses you of being with other people.

You might feel:

  • On edge, all the time.
  • Frightened.
  • Alone.
  • At fault.
  • Embarrassed.
  • Worthless.

Abuse explained

Violence or abuse is when someone uses power or control or anger to make someone else feel hurt, scared or humiliated. Abuse, violence or control can happen in different ways:

Physical abuse
Physical acts that hurt or scare you are abuse, whether or not they cause injury that you can see. Harming or threatening to hurt someone is a criminal offence.

Emotional or verbal abuse
If someone is threatening you, or constantly putting you down, it is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse.

Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse might be forcing you to have sex, demanding or tricking you into doing sexual things, having sex with you while you are asleep or unconscious or while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and unaware of what is going on. Any form of rape or sexual assault is a criminal offence.

Social abuse
Using your social life to control you or make you feel bad about yourself is social abuse. You might not be allowed to do anything alone, choose your own friends, see your family or friends or go out. You may be wrongfully accused of having sex with other people or be put down in public. Social abuse is a form of control.

Financial abuse
Money can be used as a way of getting power over someone. This means making you dependent for money, forcing you to beg or do other things for money, keeping control of all money matters, stopping you from getting a job, gambling or selling your things without your permission.

Your partner might use religion, faith or cult beliefs as a form of control or to hurt you. You might be prevented from keeping your own faith, forced to participate in beliefs or ceremonies you don't want to or feel scared or hurt by the use of certain beliefs. This can be a very powerful form of control and make you do things you don't want to do.

Cycle of violence

Relationship violence often happens in a cycle:

  1. Build-up - Things are tense. You might notice stress. You might see the build up of stress without any discussion about this. You might just sense there is something wrong.
  2. Explosion – Violence, abuse or threats occur.
  3. Remorse - Your partner says "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it", "I couldn't control it", "it won't happen again". Your partner might buy gifts or do other things to try and "make up". Sometimes your partner might blame you and say stuff like "you pushed me to it".
  4. Honeymoon - Things seem calm again and may even seem better than they have been for a long time. Your partner might deny that it happened, how serious it was or that he or she had any control. You might think your partner has changed for the better.
  5. The cycle begins again. This might happen over a few days or within just a few minutes.

    Domestic Violence Cycle

Keeping yourself safe

Here are some tips to help keep you safe if you are in an abusive or violent relationship.

  • Get help. Ring or speak to someone for advice.  See Resources below.
  • Go to the police.
  • Tell people – family or friends, the police, your employer or school counsellor.
  • Surround yourself with people you feel safe with.
  • Write it down, so if your partner hurts you again you have the history. You can also have things documented by the police without having to take any action.

Safety plan
If you are living with a violent partner and you want to leave, have a safety plan worked out. Think about:

  • Putting some money away, packing some clothes, or organising somewhere you can stay. Think about bank accounts, credit cards, marriage or birth certificates and passports. Crisis and domestic violence services can help you.  
  • Cutting the ways your partner can get in contact with you, such as phone numbers, email addresses or through social media.
  • Making arrangements for children or pets if you are scared for their safety.
  • How you will end the relationship. If your partner is violent it might be best to do it over the phone or when other people are around.
  • Getting legal advice. You can take out a restraining order or charge for any criminal offences.

How to help others

If you know someone who is in a violent relationship your support is very important. Here are some tips:

  • Talk about your concern - "I am worried because…". Tell your friend you care.
  • Listen - try not to make judgements like "Why do you take it" or "Why don't you just break up?"
  • Help your friend understand that the abuse is not their fault.
  • Believe. Tell your friend you believe it.
  • Help your friend understand the abuse and take it seriously.
  • Think about your friend’s safety and offer to help, as long as your own safety is not put at risk.
  • Be patient and let your friend make his or her own decisions.
  • Be encouraging and supportive. Try not to criticise either your friend or their partner. Talk about what abuse is and how it works.
  • Help your friend to see a counsellor or talk to the police.
  • Find your own support.
  • Check out legal or other information.


South Australia

  • Police Attendance in South Australia Ph 131 444 or emergency Ph 000.
    • Police Domestic Violence Section - Ph 8207 4807.
  • Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway
    A service for women, providing professional counselling, referrals, links to safe accommodation, and information about legal, housing, police and financial issues.
    Ph: 1800 800 089 (24 hours)
  • Domestic Violence Helpline
    Counselling for women and men:
    Ph: 1800 800 089 (24 hour Helpline). 
  • 1800 RESPECT  is a free and confidentlal counselling and telephone support service for women experiencing domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
  • Regional Domestic Violence services - offering support to women:
    • Eastern Adelaide DV Service 8365 5033
    • Western Adelaide DV Service 8268 7700
    • Northern Adelaide DV Service 8255 3622
    • Southern Adelaide DV Service 8382 0066
  • Women's Information Service
    08 8303 0590, or for country callers 1800 188 158
  • Women's Health Service
    Healthline 1300 882 880
  • Homelessness Gateway
    Telephone services for families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness
    1800 003 308
  • Nunkuwarrin Yunti, for Aboriginal women and men
    Ph 8406 1600 
    Nunga Miminis Shelter,
    9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday 8223 2200
  • Migrant Women's Support Service
    Ph 8346 9417  
  • Legal Aid
    1300 366 424  
  • Women's Legal Service
    Ph 8221 5553
  • Confronting Violence and Abuse Group for Men
    Ph: 1800 800 098.
  • Domestic Violence Outreach Service (DVOS)
    Ph: 8267 4830 (9am - 4pm).
  • Legal Services Commission
  • Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service of SA
    Ph: 8362 3223


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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor or other health professional.
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