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The drivers and causes of family violence

Family violence occurs when a perpetrator exercises power and control over another person. It involves coercive and abusive behaviours  designed to intimidate, humiliate, undermine and isolate.

Family violence covers a wide range of conduct and can be:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • psychological
  • emotional
  • cultural
  • spiritual
  • financial.

At its core, family violence is rooted in the inequality between women and men. This fosters discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that condone violence and allow it to occur.

Family violence facts

Family violence is pervasive

  • In 2012, 27% of sexual assault victims identified being sexually assaulted by a family member, including a current or former partner.
  • Technology can be used by perpetrators to control, intimidate, stalk and harass victims.
  • Family violence is the single largest cause of homelessness for women.
  • Those escaping family violence are vulnerable to unemployment and a cycle of poverty.


family violence incidents reported to Victoria Police in 2015/16

Family violence is preventable

  • We can prevent family violence by addressing the complex factors that drive and reinforce it.
  • We can prevent it from manifesting or escalating by identifying people who are at greater risk.
  • For those who have already experienced violence, we can prevent it from happening again.

Family violence is not an inevitable social problem


The drivers of family violence are complex

Gendered drivers have been shown to be most consistent with higher levels of violence against women. These include:

  • condoning violence against women
  • rigid gender roles and stereotyped views of what it means to be a man or a woman
  • interactions between men that emphasise or condone aggression or disrespect towards women.

Other factors include financial pressures, alcohol/drug abuse and social and economic exclusion.

Family violence is a deeply gendered issue

  • Most of the family violence in Victoria is perpetrated by men against women and children.
  • Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 18 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.
  • Of all victims who have reported experiencing violence since the age of 15, around 95% had experienced violence from a male perpetrator.
  • Women are 5 times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence.

1 in 3

women over the age of 15 has experienced violence or abuse from an intimate partner


Children and young people are often unacknowledged victim survivors

  • When family violence occurs in the home, children are often present.
  • Exposure to family violence can have long-term effects on their development.
  • Family violence can increase the risk of mental health, behavioural and learning difficulties.
  • Feelings of shame and powerlessness can result in isolation and exclusion.


of child protection reports in 2015/16 indicated family violence concerns

Some groups are at a greater risk of family violence

These groups include:

  • Aboriginal people
  • people with a disability
  • people from diverse cultural, linguistic and faith backgrounds
  • LGBTI people
  • older people
  • people who work in the sex industry
  • people in prison or exiting prison
  • people living in rural, regional or remote areas.

People in these groups are at greater risk of experiencing family violence than the general population.

Up to 1 in 20

older people experience family violence

Aboriginal women and children are severely impacted by family violence

  • 88% of Aboriginal children in Out-of-Home care have experienced family violence.
  • For Aboriginal children, family violence concerns were indicated in 53.2% of reports, and 74.4% of substantiated reports.
  • It is likely available data is not accurate due to the under reporting of family violence in Aboriginal communities.
  • Those that commit family violence against Aboriginal women come from all backgrounds.

25 times

Aboriginal women are 25 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of family violence