When Relationships Move Into The Abuse Realm

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by Sian Khuman, Relationships Australia Practise Specialist


All relationships have challenges and conflict, however sometimes these conflicts can move into the realm of abuse. How do we know when a relationship is abusive, what is abuse and what can we do if we are in an abusive relationship or if we have a friend or family member in one?

It is not always obvious when you are in an abusive relationship. Often we think of abuse as being physical abuse, however abusive relationships can also be emotional abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse. The Family Law Court of Australia defines abuse in relationships as family violence. They state that family violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family, or causes the family member to be fearful; and a child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence.

Some signs of an abusive relationship can include:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Stalking
  • Taunts or put-downs
  • Possessiveness
  • Threats
  • Denying financial support
  • Damaging or destroying property
  • Isolating you from your Family and Friends

Abusive relationships can also be between partners, it can be child abuse or neglect; it can be parental abuse or sibling abuse.

What can happen in an abusive relationship is that the person who is experiencing the abuse can start to feel down about themselves, their self-worth and confidence can decrease or they can start to experience depression or anxiety. Sometimes they can start to feel as though it is their fault or give justifications for their partner’s behaviour or be afraid to leave because of what they fear their partner’s reaction will be.

If you think a family member or friend may be in an abusive relationship, make a time to talk them privately. Share with them your concerns and highlight examples of what you have observed. Suggest to them to see a counsellor or could speak to the Domestic Violence Liaison Officer at their local Police Station. They may not be wanting to do anything straight away, so offer your support and know that your conversation may be a stepping stone to them seeing the abuse and doing something about it.

If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, it is recommended you speak to a professional like a counsellor who knows how to help you identify family violence.

If you are in danger call 000, 1800 RESPECT is available on the phone and online 24/7, your local Relationships Australia office is in Macquarie Park and Neutral Bay and they offer confidential counselling, therapeutic groups including Women, Choice and Change. It also homes one of their Family Relationship Centres, which is to support separating or separated families. This is an all-inclusivechild-focusedd mediation process including opportunities for legal advice, for the children to have support and a safe environment even if an AVO has been issued. To find out how they can support you further call them on 1300364277