Types of violence against women

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    Men are most likely to experience violence in a public place, by a male stranger.

    Women are most likely to experience violence in their homes, by a male partner – this is known as ‘domestic violence’ or ‘family violence’. Find out more facts about violence against women.

    Types of violence – glossary of terms

    The following definitions of violence against women can be found in the glossary of our national framework, Change the story.

    Domestic violence

    Domestic violence refers to acts of violence that occur in domestic settings between two people who are, or were, in an intimate relationship. It includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

    Emotional/psychological violence

    Emotional or psychological violence can include a range of controlling behaviours such as control of finances, isolation from family and friends, continual humiliation, threats against children or being threatened with injury or death.

    Family violence

    Family violence is a broader term than domestic violence, as it refers not only to violence between intimate partners but also to violence between family members. This includes, for example, elder abuse and adolescent violence against parents.

    Family violence includes violent or threatening behaviour, or any other form of behaviour that coerces or controls a family member or causes that family member to be fearful.

    In Indigenous communities, family violence is often the preferred term as it encapsulates the broader issue of violence within extended families, kinship networks and community relationships, as well as intergenerational issues. For LGBTIQA+ people, ‘family‘ may be defined as the ‘chosen family‘ sometimes created in the context of rejection by biological families, but there is limited research on violence in this context.

    Gender-based violence against women

    Gender-based violence against women is violence that is specifically ‘directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’.

    Image-based abuse

    Image-based abuse is when an intimate image or video is shared without the consent of the person pictured. This includes images or videos that have been digitally altered. Image-based abuse also includes the threat of an intimate image being shared.

    Intimate partner violence

    Intimate partner violence is any behaviour within an intimate relationship (including current or past marriages, domestic partnerships, or dates) that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm. This is the most common form of violence against women.

    Non-partner sexual assault

    Non-partner sexual assault is sexual violence perpetrated by strangers, acquaintances, friends, colleagues, peers, teachers, neighbours and family members.

    Sexual harassment

    Sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated, where a reasonable person would anticipate that reaction in the circumstances.

    Sexual violence

    Sexual violence is sexual activity that happens where consent is not obtained or freely given. It occurs any time a person is forced, coerced or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity, such as touching, sexual harassment and intimidation, forced marriage, trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape.

    Sexual assault is only one type of sexual violence and does not include sexual harassment, or broader and complex forms of sexual violence, such as technology-facilitated or image-based abuse.

    Violence against women

    Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes, or could cause, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life. This definition encompasses all forms of violence that women experience (including physical, sexual, emotional, cultural, spiritual, financial, and others) that are gender-based.

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    Change the story outlines the essential actions needed at all levels of society to address the underlying drivers of violence against women.

    Three people are sitting in an urban office. A woman wearing a headscarf and glasses is speaking to her colleagues who are listening and talking with her.

    Find out about a ‘primary prevention’ approach that addresses the drivers of violence against women.