Domestic Violence is any action that is experienced by a partner or children as intimidating or causing fear, and having the effect on them of limiting what they say or do.

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Descriptions of Domestic Violence

There are many types of domestic violence that are not commonly recognised as being abusive, but are experienced by many partners as causing them to be fearful, intimidated or controlled. In order to increase our understanding of domestic violence, we have described below seven categories of abuse. Many of the behaviours described below extend across more than one category. It should also be noted that these descriptions are not exhaustive. It is clear that a large amount of the behaviour described below is assault. However not all would be classified legally as assault, but it is recognised to be abusive and is still classified as domestic violence.

1. Physical

The most obvious form of violence is physical abuse. This begins with lack of consideration for the physical comfort or needs of a partner. It may escalate into a range of actions such as pushing, shoving, slapping, shaking, punching, bruising, twisting the limbs, breaking bones, denying sleep and nutrition, denying needed medical care, causing internal injuries, using household objects as weapons, causing permanent injury and at the extreme end, murder. Other forms of physical abuse include throwing crockery, breaking furniture, banging and punching doors, destroying household goods and killing or harming family pets.

2. Sexual

This also covers a range of actions, which include the sexual objectification of a partner through jokes, humiliating or degrading comments or unwanted touching. It also includes manipulation or coercion of a partner into having sex, as well as punishment by rejecting them as a sexual partner, degrading a partner while having sex, causing injury during sex, and rape.

3. Verbal

Verbal abuse ranges from snide, joking comments through to aggressive, constant yelling. The purpose is to humiliate, degrade, demean, intimidate and subdue. Threats are a particularly coercive form of verbal abuse. Threats of violence to a partner can be either very explicit, or implied. Some are indirect, for example threats of suicide, to turn children against your partner, to abuse children, or to kill family pets. Threats may also be non-verbal, such as looks, actions and gestures to make your partner afraid.

4. Financial

An example of financial abuse is a demand that you partner do the impossible with unrealistically limited income passed on to them. Another form is denying your partner access to, or control over money, even when they have money of their own.

5. Social

Social abuse takes three main forms. First there is the verbal abuse through being laughed at, sent up, or put down in the company of others. The partner is thus humiliation front of friends, relatives or strangers. Second there is the smothering of a partner, through being possessive, jealous and over protective. Third, there is social abuse through isolation. A partner has restrictions placed on them regarding the friends and relatives they can see in her own home nor are they allowed to go out.

6. Spiritual

The man may ridicule spiritual beliefs held by a partner, or actively prevent a partner from practising those beliefs.

7. Emotional

It is also very important to recognise that each of the above forms of abuse also has an emotional component. Emotional abuse may also include putting a partner down, criticising their clothes or body shape, making them think they are crazy or playing mind games, or making them feel guilty. Emotional abuse may also include actions that involve the children. These include making a partner feel guilty about the children, putting responsibility onto the children to relay messages or check up on the partner, telling the children the partner is a bad parent, or encouraging the children to defy or degrade them.

Cycle of Violence

A pattern can often be identified in Domestic Violence. There may be an incident or ‘explosion’. This can be followed by feelings of remorse, blame or denial by the person perpetrating the abuse.

They may be ashamed and promise it will never happen again and that they will change. Or they may blame alcohol or drugs or even the person being abused for causing the violence. The violence may be minimised eg "it was only a little push, they tripped." A "honeymoon" period may follow where everything appears calm and gifts or flowers may be bought for the person who has been abused. Both may hope or believe things will change, however, beliefs and attitudes have not changed.

After this honeymoon period there may be a build up of tension. Some women describe this period as walking on eggshells as they are afraid that anything may result in further violence. This period continues until there is another explosion. The cycle starts again. The length of the cycle may be days, weeks or months. It is different in each case.

What Actions Might Lead to partner/Children Experiencing Fear, Intimidation or Being Controlled/Limited

What is It Like to be Recognising Some of What You Have Done in Those Descriptions?

Physical Abuse

Sexual Abuse


Coercion and Threats

Emotional Abuse


Financial Abuse



Uniting Wesley Care (Adelaide)(08) 8202-5111(08) 8202-5807
Relationships Australia(08) 8223-4566(08) 8232-2898
Step Family Zone(08) 8522-7007(08) 8522-7007
C.O.P.E.(08) 8245-8100(08)
Parenting SA(08) 8303-1660(08) 8303-1653