Am I a victim of family violence?

Family violence affects many people and can happen in several ways; some may not even be considered as legally criminal. The Law Council of Australia has recently released a model which tries to easily define the types of violent acts that will constitute as “family violence” as well as extending who may be classified as a “family member”. With this, you can see whether you are a victim of family violence.

Under the Law Council’s definition, family violence can include the following and even just threats to:

  • assault or cause personal injury to a family member;
  • sexually assault a family member or engage in another form of sexually coercive behaviour;
  • intentionally damage a family member’s property;
  • unlawfully deprive a family member of their liberty;
  • cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the family member to whom the behaviour is directed so as to control, dominate or coerce the family member;
  • threaten a person with the death or injury of the person, a child of the person, or someone else;
  • unauthorised surveillance of a person;
  • unlawfully stalk or cyber stalk a person;
  • attach a tracking device to a motor vehicle; or
  • use without consent an application or device to track a person’s phone usage (calls and text messages, location data, internet history, etc.); and
  • take without consent or distribute without consent an intimate image of the family member.

These definitions are not dissimilar to the definition set out in the Family Law Act 1975 where, under section 4AB, family violence can include:

  • an assault; or
  • a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour; or
  • stalking; or
  • repeated derogatory taunts; or
  • intentionally damaging or destroying property; or
  • intentionally causing death or injury to an animal; or
  • unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had; or
  • unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support; or
  • preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; or
  • unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member‘s family, of his or her liberty.

The Law Council and the Family Law Act’s definitions are a non-exhaustive list of examples of family violence. This means that if you are being subjected to other acts or threats not listed above, you can sill be considered a victim of family violence.

The reason behind the definitions is to harmonise the meaning of family violence across the nation. The Law Council president Tass Liveris said there is a need for “clear and consistent national definitions of the different forms of violence” to assist the legal professional to have a consistent understanding. The Law Council also extended who may constitute as a family member and therefore a victim of family violence, to also include relationships such as a person with a disability and their carer.

The model released by the Law Council of Australia is in support of the federal government’s National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2023.  The government has also recently rolled out a two-year trial which will provide a one-off payment of $5,000 to women leaving a violent relationship.

If you are a victim of family violence and need assistance for putting in place agreements or orders in relation to your children and/or property after a breakdown of your relationship, please contact us on (03) 9793 7888 or send us an email at for an appointment. Otherwise, if you’re still looking at finding out more information before proceeding, please read about that process here.

If you are in immediate fear for your safety or the safety of a loved one, please contact Victoria Police on 000.