Helping someone impacted by family and sexual violence

Family and sexual violence is not a private matter. Its a whole-of-community issue.

If you know or suspect a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague is experiencing or using violence, you can take steps to support them.

You are not interfering and your support can make a difference.

Find out more about family and sexual violence, including the specialist support services available.

Reach out and offer your support or contact a support service to seek information and advice.


Recognising and Responding to Violence

Most couples have arguments or disagreements. In respectful and equal relationship, both partners are able to make their own decisions, be themselves, have their own opinions and say no to sex.

Family violence is a pattern of violent and controlling behaviours that may include physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, coercion, threats and / or sexual violence.

All violence in a relationship is unacceptable. It is not the fault of the victim-survivor. It is not caused by stress, alcohol or other drugs or the victim-survivor's behaviour. Violence occurs because the perpetrator wants to control their partner.

In Tasmania, under the Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas), family violence occurs in intimate relationships - between current or former partners or spouses. For more information visit the Family Violence page.

Where sexual violence is perpetrated in an intimate relationship, it is also considered family violence.

Identifying family violence is a challenging task. It may be masked by other dynamics; deliberately or unintentionally minimised by the victim-survivor; or denied or minimised by the perpetrator.

In some circumstances, it may be difficult to distinguish family violence from forms of conflict that are not usually regarded as abusive.

Often there are no obvious signs. Sometimes you may just have a sense or feeling that something is wrong in a relationship.

Remember, specialist support services are available to help, provide information and answer your questions.

In an emergency, where there are immediate dangers to safety, always call Triple Zero (000).

Signs that a person may be a victim-survivor of family violence include that person being or appearing:

  • nervous, intimidated or frightened by their partner
  • withdrawn or reluctant to speak, particularly in the presence of their partner
  • overly anxious to please their partner

You may also notice, or they may reveal:

  • they refer to their partner as having a bad temper or being moody
  • they refer to their partner as being jealous or possessive
  • they repeatedly have bruises, cuts, sprains, broken bones or other injuries
  • they are unable to explain or provide unlikely explanations for physical injuries
  • they are reluctant to leave their children with their partner
  • their children seem afraid of the partner, have behaviour problems and/or seen very anxious or withdrawn
  • they have stopped seeing friends or family
  • their partner forces them to do sexual things
  • their partner constantly follows, calls or texts them wanting to know where they are, what they are doing and who they are with
  • their partner criticises or humiliates them
  • their partner is jealous and possessive
  • their partner controls the money and other assets
  • their partner makes all decisions and orders them about

For people outside of a violent and abusive relationship, it is hard to imagine why a victim-survivor would stay. Leaving may appear to be a simple solution. However, it can be very hard for a person to leave a violent relationship. Leaving a violent and abusive partner can be dangerous.

If someone you know is experiencing violence and is chooses not leave, it is important that you don't make them feel there is something wrong with them. Your understanding is important.

  • They may be afraid of what will happen when they leave. The perpetrator may have threatened harm to the victim-survivor, family, friends, children, pets or property or  threatened to commit suicide. For many victim-survivors, the violence and abuse gets worse after they leave.
  • They still love their partner because they are not abusive all the time. They want the violence and abuse to end, not the relationship.
  • They believe their partner will change.
  • They think the violence is their fault.
  • They lack the confidence to leave after their perpetrator has make them feel powerless and unable to make decisions.
  • They feel isolated and lonely, having been cut off from family and friends.
  • They feel pressure from their family or community to stay and fear rejection if they leave.
  • They feel they can't escape their partner because they are part of a small community or live in a rural or remonstrate area.
  • They feel they have nowhere to go - no where to live and no access to transport to leave.
  • They don't have the money, resources or assets to survive if the relationship ends.

I know someone experiencing or who has experienced violence in their relationship

How you respond to a disclosure of violence can make a difference to their recovery. If a victim-survivor feels supported and encouraged, they may feel stronger and more able to make decisions.

People experiencing violence often give a lot of consideration to who they can trust, and who is likely to listen.

If someone chooses to talk about their thoughts, feelings and choices with you, the most important thing is to listen without judgement and help them find ways to be safe. Your involvement doesn't mean you have to solve the situation.

  • Listen to them and believe them
  • Take the abuse and violence seriously
  • Thank them for telling you
  • Acknowledge their strength and courage
  • Validate their feelings
  • Reassure them the violence is not their fault
  • Encourage them to get support from a specialist family and sexual violence service
  • Offer practical support
  • Respect their right to make their own decisions
  • Don't be judgmental or pressure them to leave
  • Maintain regular contact
  • Keep providing support after they have left the relationship

I know someone who is using or who has used violence in their relationship

Any engagement with a family violence perpetrator must be undertaken in such a way that others, including victim-survivors and children, are not put at risk.

If you witness violence where there is an immediate risks to the safety of yourself or others, call the police on Triple Zero (000).

If you observe abuse and feel safe and able to talk about the behaviour you have observed, provide a clear message that all forms of violence are unacceptable. A man speaking to another man, or a women speaking to another woman about their violent behaviour can be a useful approach.

It is common for a person who chooses to use violence to deny or minimise their behaviours. Don't excuse the violence. Focus on what the person is going to do about it and encourage them to seek help.

If you only know about the use of violence because a victim-survivor has told you, do not confront a perpetrator without first  checking with the victim-survivor, as this may cause the violence to escalate.

If a family member, friend, neighbour or colleague discloses they abuse their partner and don't know how to stop their behaviour, you can refer them to a support service.

If you know or suspect someone is experiencing family violence, but they have not made a disclosure or shared what is happening, you can take action.

There is a risk of embarrassment if you are wrong. But most people will appreciate your concern for their wellbeing.

If you approach the person sensitively, without judgement or criticism, in a safe place, it is unlikely you will make things worse by letting them know you are worried about them.

The person may reject your support or tell you your suspicions are wrong. Don't be surprised if the response is defensive. They may just not be ready to talk, and may reach out later.

Don't force the person into talking. Just let them know you are there if they need to talk. Be patient.

The other action you can take is to find out more information, including about the specialist services that are available to provide information, help and support.

Supporting someone who is impacted by violence can be stressful, frustrating and frightening.

Make sure you look after yourself and get the support you need!

Specialist family and sexual violence services are available to provide you with support and advice.