Your Questions

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What's Abuse?

What’s the difference between a normal family argument and domestic abuse?

Sometimes people say things to each other in an argument that are mean and hurtful. But there’s a difference between a normal argument or disagreement and domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is when a person is trying to control the other person, and is repeatedly abusive and violent towards another person. Also, the other person may be afraid of answering back.

My dad often gets drunk. Is that why he hits my mum?

Alcohol doesn’t cause domestic abuse (nor do drugs, for that matter). However, it can make the abuse worse. People sometimes use alcohol or drugs as an excuse for being abusive – but there are no excuses for violence or abuse. People choose to be abusive. Sometimes abusers blame alcohol or drugs for their behaviour, others say it’s because they are stressed, or depressed about work or money. Other people might say that a person deserved to be hurt because of something they did. None of these are true – and no one deserves to be abused.

I grew up in a home where there was domestic abuse – will I become an abuser?

Lots of people think that a child who grows up with domestic abuse at home will become either a victim or an abuser. This doesn’t have to be the case! Many young people who live with domestic violence don’t turn into abusers or victims. It’s really important to remember that you’re in control of who you want to be and how you want to behave. Talk to someone you trust about what you’re experiencing. It’s normal to feel angry and confused, but it’s how you express these feelings that matter. You can find ways to behave that aren’t abusive or violent.

I’m confused – is domestic abuse against the law?

Yes and no! Domestic abuse is not a crime in itself – you cannot be arrested or sent to prison for domestic abuse. However, many things that abusive people do are against the law. For example, it’s a crime to assault (physically hurt) another person, or to harass someone. Under the law everyone has the right to live free from and be protected from violence and abuse. Abuse isn’t an accident – it’s a pattern of behaviour that’s done on purpose to hurt, intimidate or frighten another person.

My dad calls my mum names. Is this domestic abuse?

Calling someone names and making them feel bad about themselves is emotional abuse. This isn’t OK and can be part of a pattern of domestic violence. This behaviour can also upset or frighten young people.

My uncle pushes my mum and hits her. Is this abuse?

Hitting, slapping and pushing are different kinds of physical abuse that can be part of domestic violence. It’s never OK to hurt another person in this way – this abuse is against the law. You have a right to be safe.

My step dad bullies my mum until she cries. Is this domestic violence?

Yes, this is domestic violence. Domestic violence doesn’t have to include physical abuse. It can include bullying another person emotionally. Domestic violence is about one adult having more power and control than the other and thinking they can control the other person. Seeing this happen in your home may make you feel worried or upset.

My father won’t let my mum go out unless he’s with her. Is this abuse?

Domestic violence can include isolating the other person – keeping them away from family and friends. This behaviour isn’t OK. The other person can feel alone and depressed, making it even more difficult for them to get help. People who are in a relationship together should trust each other, and everyone has a right to be free to make their own decisions.

I feel scared at home, is this normal?

It’s not normal to feel scared at home. You have a right to feel safe and adults have the responsibility to protect you. If you feel scared or unsafe at home, maybe because you see violence happening or maybe because someone is hurting you, it’s important that you get help.

My boyfriend is controlling – he tells me what to wear and puts me down. Is this domestic abuse?

Yes, this is abusive. Your partner doesn’t have the right to treat you like this. Controlling what you do and making you feel bad about yourself is emotional abuse. If this is happening, you should speak to someone you trust and get help.