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Am I experiencing family and domestic violence?

If you believe you are experiencing family and domestic violence the most important thing to do is to ensure your safety and that of any children in your care. Trust your instincts. You are the expert in knowing your abuser so only leave when you feel you are most safe to do so.

Find a moment of privacy to contact Harbour on 9791 2894 for a free and confidential discussion regarding your circumstances or reach out and send us a message HERE.

You can find more information by contacting the the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service at 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732 or visiting their website: 1800RESPECT

For a comprehensive list of support services and emergency contacts for those experiencing family and domestic violence, please click HERE.


Demystifying Family and Domestic Violence

Myths and Facts

There are many commonly held beliefs about family and domestic violence which often result in either blaming the survivor and excusing the behaviour of the abuser and consequently make prevention, reporting or seeking help difficult.

Myth: Family and domestic violence occurs because the abuser loses his temper arising from being provoked.

Fact: Family and domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour using one or more type of abuse targeted toward the one person/s and is often intentionally hidden from others so it cannot be stopped or reported. The environment created by the abuser ensures the survivor is monitored, manipulated and controlled which requires a high degree of tactical planning which cannot occur in a situation where someone loses control of their temper. Further, Survivors often try to create an environment that pleases the abuser to avoid any violence however despite these efforts, the survivor remains vulnerable to the abuse because the abuser chooses carefully, when, where, how and why he will use violence to ensure compliance.

Myth: If you are abused as a child you will grow into adulthood as an abuser or survivor

Fact: Intergenerational violence may predispose some children to use violence as children or adults or enter into a relationship where violence is perpetrated.

Whilst the reasons this occurs for some children are complex, young children exposed to violence may choose unhealthy ways of responding when feeling fearful when they have unresolved trauma. It is important that children receive therapeutic assistance such as counselling to help them see that the violence they witnessed or experienced was not caused by them. When children feel safe and nurtured, they are more likely to develop a healthy sense of self worth.

Myth: If it was intolerable and she was in danger, why doesn’t she just leave?

Fact: The list of reasons why she cannot leave safely is as unique as it is comprehensive. When a Survivor leaves or states an intention to leave a relationship, that is when she is at the highest risk of homicide. Many women have been threatened with a number of acts of retribution if they leave the abuser in addition to practical considerations including;

  • threats to find and kill the Survivor and/or their children and family
  • they may have left previously and been located by the abuser so the survivor believes the abuser may be able to locate them and kill them.
  • The Survivor has nowhere else to go
  • the abuser knows the location of all the Survivors friends/family/contacts and has told the Survivor they will be harmed if they help her
  • the Survivor does not have access to funds/transport to leave
  • the Survivor’s communications with everyone except him are tightly monitored.
  • The abuser threatens to commit suicide and the Survivor will feel responsible if this occurs
  • The Survivor has not told anyone about the abuse so this will create shame/judgement
  • The Survivor left the relationship previously and returned and close contacts of the Survivor have “given up” supporting her.


The list of reasons the Survivor does not leave may be exhaustive so often they believe they are stuck and many believe they are at risk of being killed.

How Do I Support Someone experiencing Family or Domestic Violence?

It may be hard to tell if someone is experiencing family or domestic violence as often Survivors are fearful that if it is disclosed or known they may be at risk of harm from the abuser.

If you suspect someone is experiencing harm, you can ask them if they are being subjected to any of the patterns of abuse (see Types of controlling behaviours) above. A Survivor may initially deny, justify or minimize what is occurring, fearful of your reaction to what they are potentially disclosing.

If a Survivor does tell you, believe them and keep any commitments you make to keep it confidential from the abuser. Let them know you are there if they need help and how you will agree to help them if they reach out to you. Let them know the abuse is not their fault and how great it is they have told you and are reaching out for support.

Some ways to help are to;

  • If there is a risk their device may be monitored, let them use your phone/device to call either 1800 RESPECT or Harbour on 9791 2894
  • Offer to accompany them to the Police to report the abuse
  • Looking after children while they seek free legal advice or obtain a Family Violence Restraining Order
  • Offer accommodation if she needs to leave in a hurry
  • Keeping or giving her numbers for emergency accommodation or services such as Harbour
  • Providing emotional support

If the Survivor does not act on any of your advice or suggestions, don’t disconnect with them or judge them. Remember the Survivor is doing their best to keep themselves safe and is the only person who knows the abuser well enough to know when it is safe to leave.

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