What is violence against women?

Definitions of abuse and violent behaviour

“Abuse happens when one person tries to control, or hurt the other. Abuse is not just physical acts (like hitting, pushing, smashing stuff) - in fact it might not be physical at all. Emotional abuse is when someone deliberately makes you feel bad, cuts you off from other people, or tries to control your choices. It's against the law for someone to physically hurt you, stalk you (in person or online) or force you into sex. You can contact the police and the person can be charged with a crime.” (1 [DVRCV])

Violent and Abusive Behaviour includes:

Physical Violence

Physical Abuse: Holding, restraining, pushing, shoving, shaking, punching, slapping, twisting limbs, using weapons. Any use of physical force whether or not it leaves evidence of injury.

Sexual Abuse: Sexual behaviour with another person without that person’s consent. This may include rape, bondage, demanding sex, assault using objects, and treating a person as a sexual object.

Emotional Violence

Threats and Intimidation: Making threats, using looks or actions, or speaking in ways that are frightening or threatening.

Put Downs: Using put downs regarding a person’s sexuality, nationality, racial and ethnic heritage, family structure, religious affiliation, ability, physical appearance, socio-economic status, etc to erode their self-esteem.

Sexual/Sex based Harassment: Unwanted physical actions, verbal demands or put-downs based on the sex or the sexuality of a person that makes them feel uncomfortable, intimidated, hurt or vulnerable.

Social and Financial Abuse

  • Making all the ‘big’ decisions.
  • Acting like the ‘master of the house’.
  • Put downs of a person in public including in front of their friends, community or networks.
  • Treating others like servants or as inferior.
  • Ignoring others’ personal rights.
  • Controlling their social life.
  • Isolating them from family and friends.
  • Controlling money or finances without negotiation.

Cyber Abuse

Using emails, voice and text messages, photographic and video images to threaten or humiliate.

Indirect Abuse

Organising someone else to use violence and abuse.

(2 [Definition of 'Violent and Abusive Behaviour' from Friedman])


1. Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' website, based on 'Relationships: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' booklet. DVRCV.

2. Friedman, B. Boys Talk: Information sheet, based on 'Boys Talk: A program for young men about masculinity non-violence and relationships'. p.114.