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    Coping with Domestic Abuse: A Help Guide | One to One Counselling
    This guide is intended for anyone seeking further information on the issue of domestic abuse.

    About domestic abuse

    Domestic abuse can be experienced in a number of different ways. The abuse can be categorised as physical, psychological, sexual or financial. Domestic abuse can take place within intimate relationships or family relationships in a household. The behavior of a perpetrator is controlling and coercive.

    Domestic abuse affects many people. The exact number of cases is unknown due to many cases going unreported. However 2014 statistics provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal:

    • New South Wales - 30 victims (or 4 per million persons)
    • Victoria – 32 victims (or 5 per million persons)
    • Queensland – 13 victims (or 3 per million persons)
    • South Australia – 5 victims (or 3 per million persons)
    • Western Australia - 11 victims (or 4 per million persons)
    • Northern Territory – 4 victims (or 16 per million persons)

    The same research indicates that women are much more likely to be victims of multiple incidents of abuse.

    Further research shows that women are more likely to experience domestic violence from an intimate partner/former partner. Men are also much more likely to be repeat perpetrators (Coleman et al., 2007). Shockingly, two women per week are killed by a current or former partner in Australia.

    As domestic abuse is such a concern, there are many services that offer support and advice for victims and their children.

    Why do some victims do nothing about their situation or take a long time to make changes?

    There are a number of obstacles that can get in the way of a domestic abuse victim changing their situation. There can be many psychological and practical difficulties when ending a relationship.

    Some victims may be in denial about the severity of their partner’s/ family member’s actions. They may create excuses in their mind and to other people such as, ‘they have been having a bad time recently’, ‘they have a problem with anger and can’t help it’, ‘they were drunk’, ‘they suffer from mental illness’ or ‘my partner is allowed to do that to me’. It is important to note that there are no excuses for abusive behavior and that it is always wrong.

    Victims may also minimize what has happened, ‘It was only a couple of pushes’ or ‘They didn’t hit me that hard’. This is another way of trying to cope with the reality of such a bad situation which can often lead to an abusive relationship lasting for a long time.

    Some victims can falsely believe as if they deserve the abuse and that it is their fault. Some perpetrators can make the victim feel in this way by saying statements such as ‘you drove me to that’, or ‘that was all your fault’. However, it is very important to note that there is no excuse or justification for abusive behavior and that the victim is not to blame.

    Some victims fear how the perpetrator will respond if they do something to change their situation. For example, they may fear that if they end the relationship or leave the household, that the perpetrator will become very aggressive and even more violent (post-separation abuse). The police and domestic abuse organizations offer safety support and advice.

    They may also fear other possible consequences of ending a relationship such as changes in housing, family, friendships, location and finances. We have an underlying fear of the unknown; however in the case of domestic abuse, the ‘unknown’ option can often be much better and safer. In this case it is also important to know that there are services available that specialize in keeping victims safe.

    Many people stay in abusive relationships in the hope that their partner will change and will stop being abusive. This can especially be the case for co-dependent relationships. This can mean that the victim is dependent on the perpetrator for something, such as financial stability. Again it is important to know that there are services available to support and advise victims regarding co-dependency issues.

    Some victims who have children remain in abusive relationships when they would like to ‘keep the family together’. However in many cases both the victim and children are happier and safer when the abusive relationship among parents ends.

    In addition, many victims struggle with the idea of being single and can fear loneliness. This is natural to feel this way however in time a social network can be formed among anyone willing to try.

    It can be seen that there are a number of different reasons for why some victims do nothing to change their situation. Importantly, these can all be overcome, especially with the right support.

    How can I recognise domestic abuse?

    Perpetrators of domestic abuse focus on themselves and do not care about the needs of their victim/s. They generally have a deep rooted desire for power and control in which their behavior reflects. Abusers generally have very low self-esteem and can have a fear of abandonment.

    Physical abuse involves any physical contact which is intended to cause intimidation, threat or injury. Some examples include pushing, scratching, holding tightly, twisting arms, hitting, spitting at, poking, scalding, burning, tripping over, kicking, biting and beating.

    Psychological/emotional abuse can be very varied and can involve deliberate manipulation, tormenting, and causing trauma, anxiety and depression. This can also involve lowering someone’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem. Many perpetrators will emotionally attack their victim’s identity, confidence, sense of independence and dignity. Some forms of common psychological abuse involve not letting the victim have any control over their own life, telling them that no one else wants or likes them, blackmailing and threatening them.

    Sexual abuse involves sexual activity of any kind whereby the victim is forced to do something against their wishes. This can involve intercourse, touching, violence during sex, forcing someone to have sex with others or in front of others, forcing someone to view sexual material and forcing someone to be sexually photographed against their wishes. All of these acts are also classed as sexual abuse when you are in a relationship or marriage with someone. No one has a right to sexually abuse you including your partner.  

    Financial abuse is when the perpetrator uses money as a way of controlling someone. This can include withholding money, preventing the victim from getting a job, demanding all the available money, making the victim live in poverty and forcing the victim to beg for money.

    For further information on identifying domestic abuse, see the women’s aid website, ‘The Survivors handbook’. This is a useful questionnaire that allows you to identify domestic abuse.

    What problems and risks come with domestic abuse?

    There are many possible consequences of domestic abuse, especially if the abuse is long term.

    Firstly, there is the risk of harm for the victim, both physically and mentally. During physical and sexual abuse the risk of harm is very high. Many victims suffer injuries which can sometimes be fatal. During physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse, victims are highly likely to suffer psychologically. Many victims can develop psychological difficulties and mental health issues. Such problems include depression, anxiety disorders, psychosomatic symptoms, high stress levels, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction and very low self-esteem.

    If children are subjected to domestic abuse this can have a high impact on them too. In general, children will be badly affected in terms of psychological health and well-being when observing domestic abuse or being a victim themselves. Some children will also grow up to believe that abusive behavior is acceptable and they may become abusive themselves. There is also a risk of physical harm to children when a parent is abusive around them.

    Pregnant women and unborn babies are particularly susceptible to harm. Domestic abuse is found to be one of the leading causes of death whilst pregnant or during childbirth.

    Considering your options as a victim

    There are a number of options that individuals can consider when experiencing domestic abuse.

    One option is to stay in the relationship in hope the perpetrator will make some changes and the abuse will stop. In this case, the perpetrator will need to be very remorseful of their actions and be highly motivated to change. It may be that extra support is required for an individual to learn how to control their anger. For further information please see our other free guide available, ‘anger management’. Unfortunately, many perpetrators will never change which is why the victim should be realistic and set firm boundaries if considering this option.

    Another option is to end the relationship and breakaway from the abuse. There are many services, locally and nationally that specialise in supporting victims in this way. Services offer varied types of support including emotional support, housing advice, financial advice, counselling and therapy and victim safety.

    Support services

    Call 000 if in immediate danger.

    While Ribbon  - 
    White Ribbon is an Australia-wide portal for reporting abuse and neglect of people, providing men and women who are experiencing domestic violence with support. White Ribbon is a primary prevention campaign - that is, we work to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to violence against women. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence and need help or support, please contact one of the support services below. There are national and state-based agencies that can assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

    Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State (24 hours)

    Translating and Interpreting Service
    Phone to gain access to an interpreter in your own language (free)

    Mensline Australia
    Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties

    Kids Help Line
    Telephone counselling for children and young people
    Support line:  1800 551 800

    Australian Childhood Foundation - 
    Counselling for children and young people affected by abuse
    Support line: 1800176453 or 98743922  or

    Support groups and counselling on relationships, and for abusive and abused partners.
    Support line: 1300364277  

    A service to adult survivors, their friends and family and the health care professionals who support them.
    Support line: 1300 657 380

    National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline
    An Australia-wide telephone hotline for reporting abuse and neglect of people with disability.
    Support line: 1800 880 052

    The Department of Community Services Domestic Violence Line - 
    The Department of Community Services Domestic Violence Line is the primary information service for people experiencing domestic violence in NSW. The DV line is free and staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week.
    Support line: 1800 65 64 63

    LGBTIQ Domestic Violence Information - 
    Another Closet

    Transgender and Transsexual People - 
    Services for people with gender issues.
    Support line: (02) 9569 2366

    lntersex People - 
    The Australian affiliate of Organisation Internationale des Intersexues (OII Australia)

    Australian Government Department of Health Services - 
    Family and domestic violence

    Healthdirect Australia - 
    Healthdirect Australia is a non-commercial, government funded organisation providing trusted health information to all Australians.

    Speak to 000 or your local police station to report domestic abuse - it is a serious crime.

    Counselling and therapy services

    Many victims benefit from further support in overcoming the trauma of domestic abuse. The helplines above may be able to suggest some specialist services. In addition, some refuges will offer counselling services.

    Further methods of seeking therapeutic services can include via Medicare. This could involve seeing your GP and asking for a referral to see someone regarding overcoming domestic abuse.

    Local charities or organisations may provide support groups, therapy and advice in your local or near-by area. Try the internet to search for local domestic abuse charities and organizations.

    Search through online directories or contact your council for organisations that offer can therapeutic help. (One to One Counselling is one such clinic)

    When seeing a healthcare professional you are likely to be offered an initial assessment. You will be some questions to identify the issues, causes and problems with a view to understanding and assisting you to recovery.


    Coleman, Kathryn, Jansson, Krista, Kaiza, Peter and Reed, Emma (2007) Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate violence 2005/6: Supplementary. Volume 1 to Crime in England and Wales 2005-6. Office for National Statistics.

    Walby, Sylvia and Allen, Jonathan (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey (London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate) 

    Women’s Aid-

    World Health Organisation (WHO) (1997) Violence against women: A priority health issue (Geneva: WHO).

    White Ribbon

    Australian Bureau of Statistics