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Half of Australians believe non-physical abuse is just as serious as physical abuse

October 1, 2018 / Our Watch media team

Research from Our Watch finds 1 in 2 Australians find it difficult to recognise non-physical abuse in a relationship, yet 1 in 4 women have experienced at least one incident of non-physical abuse from a live in partner.

Still from campaign video that shows a young women with brown skin and curly hair looking straight at the camera. She looks confused. The superimposed text reads, 'There's no excuse for abuse'

Put downs and belittling, controlling spending and dictating whom a partner can and can’t socialise with – these are all non-physical forms of abuse and they are shockingly common which is why Australia’s leading body in the prevention of violence against women has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the problem.

The No Excuse for Abuse campaign by Our Watch aims to raise awareness of non-physical abuse, particularly among younger adults before they commit to their first live-in relationship.

Our Watch Chief Executive Officer, Patty Kinnersly, said it was vital the community understood that non-physical abuse is prevalent, serious and inexcusable.

“Research tells us that many Australians are concerned about non-physical abuse between partners, but can find it difficult to recognise. People in their twenties and thirties particularly can find it hard to identify non-physical forms of abuse in relationships.”

“No Excuse for Abuse will help people understand that things like dictating which friends a partner can or can’t see, controlling all of the financial decisions or monitoring partners online without their knowledge are abusive and should not be part of any relationship. We want to help people recognise these unacceptable, controlling behaviours so that they cannot be excused or dismissed.”

“Non-physical forms of abuse are even more prevalent than physical abuse and we are working to make people aware of this serious problem.”

There are six common types of non-physical abuse:

  • Financial – controlling how a partner spends their money.
  • Social – deciding who someone can and can’t spend time with.
  • Emotional – verbal put downs and jokes at their partners expense.
  • Spiritual – disrespecting a partner’s religion or not letting them practice their religion.
  • Technological – using technology like a phone to control, embarrass or demean a partner.
  • Stalking – harassing someone with unwanted contact. This can be as simple as following someone home under the guise of making sure they get home safe.

Our Watch’s research found that:

  • One in five people made the excuse that if a partner was controlling their finances it was because the other person had a problem with overspending or couldn’t be trusted with their money
  • One in five people made the excuse that if someone checked and monitored their partners phone is was because their partner couldn’t be trusted
  • Over half of people acknowledge that if someone verbally put down their partner they were likely to have a history of putting down their partners
  • 41% of Australians think that financial abuse is very concerning, but only 9% believe it’s very common
  • 34% of Australians think that emotional abuse is very concerning, but only 12% think it’s very common
  • 31% of Australians think that social control is very serious, but only 12% think it’s very common.

The No Excuse for Abuse campaign aims to educate younger adults about what is abusive or controlling behaviour, before they enter their first live-in relationship, as well as helping peers to recognise this among their friends.

The short video clips, which feature young women and men describing abusive behaviour and attempting to excuse it, will be shown online.

Watch the No Excuse for Abuse videos on the campaign website Our Watch has developed, which describes the different types of non-physical abuse in more detail. 

Find out more about our work to end violence against women in Australia.

The evidence
Woman holding baby.