Domestic & family violence

Signs & effects of domestic & family violence

Topics illustration alt

In this topic

Understand the signs and how you might be affected

This page is currently under review and the content will be updated soon.

Victims develop survival skills to protect themselves and their children. They may ‘tiptoe’ around their partner’s moods or change their behaviour to ‘keep the peace’. They sometimes withdraw from their friends and family. They try to protect children from seeing or hearing the abuse. They do everything exactly as their partner wishes, but still, this does not stop the abuse. Some victims also try to fight back.

What are the effects of domestic and family violence?

Living in an abusive relationship can lead to depression; injury from assault; suicidal thoughts; panic and anxiety. You may have nightmares, be unable to sleep, stop eating properly, or feel confused and hopeless. These are normal reactions and many people overcome them with support.

What about the children?

Children living in a household where there is domestic & family violence usually know exactly what is going on and they may blame themselves for the violence and tension in the household.

Domestic & family violence is a form of child abuse. Children need support to deal with the trauma they experience and the disruption it causes to their development. Unborn children or small babies can also be directly affected by the violence and by their mother’s fear or stress. Be aware that during pregnancy and around the birth of a new baby there is often a greater risk of violence.

Many women are hopeful that these major life events will change their partner. However, there is very clear evidence that these times are often triggers for increased violence due to jealousy and issues of control. Some children may not have the words to tell you how it is affecting them, but their behaviours show you how they feel.

For example:

• Aggressive, demanding behaviour and language

• Low self-esteem and shame

• Physical reactions; eating and sleeping problems, stomach cramps, bedwetting, headaches

• Withdrawing from friends or difficulty making and keeping friends

• Problems with schoolwork

• Becoming a victim or a perpetrator of bullying

Using drugs or alcohol


These are understandable responses to living with fear and worry.

Children need:

• To know they are not forgotten and that you notice what they are dealing with

• To feel and hear they are loved

• Protection from direct physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse

• Encouragement to talk about their worries and make sense of what is happening

• Reassurance that the violence is not their fault

• Help with making their own safety plan for where to go when they are fearful.

Download our domestic and family violence factsheet.

Was this page useful?

Your feedback helps us improve the service for people like you.

We'd love to hear why!