Advice for family and friends

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This page has information for friends, family, neighbours and colleagues about supporting someone who may be experiencing family violence.

How do you know if it’s family violence?

Family violence is a pattern of threatening, controlling or violent behaviour that makes someone feel scared or unsafe. It can be used by and affect people of all genders, identities, age groups, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds and walks of life. It can happen in many kinds of relationships such as between a parent and child or someone and their carer. 

Family violence often happens behind closed doors, making it hard for people experiencing abuse to reach out for support.

Family violence doesn’t always involve physical abuse. People use a wide range of abusive behaviours to maintain power and control in relationships. There’s often a cycle of abusive behaviour – there may be periods of time without violence, and times where the violence is heightened.

No matter what form it takes, family violence is never OK.

It can be hard to tell whether what someone is experiencing is family violence. They might be reluctant to acknowledge the abuse or may not realise that’s what is happening. It’s important that you don’t ignore or dismiss the warning signs.

Common warning signs

  • They’ve withdrawn from loved ones. 
  • Someone is controlling or tracking their actions, money or movements. 
  • They seem afraid when their partner, ex or family member is around, or tell you they feel scared. 
  • They mention that person’s jealousy or temper.
  • They seem anxious or depressed. 
  • They’re often criticised or humiliated by that person. 
  • The person often speaks for them or undermines their credibility.
  • They’ve got cuts, bruises or other injuries. 
  • It’s hard to catch them on their own. 
  • You hear aggressive arguments coming from the house.

What you can do

It takes a lot of strength and courage to tell someone about violence or abuse. If someone opens up to you, it’s important that you listen without interrupting, believe them and take the abuse seriously. Many people worry they’ll be interfering or scared they might say the wrong thing. But if you observe any of the signs, taking the next step and offering your support can make a real difference. 

Do you suspect someone may be experiencing abuse?

Visit our Is someone you know unsafe at home? website.


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Search our directory of specialist family violence services in Victoria.


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