Information about family violence


Adolescent to parent abuse

What is adolescent to parent violence (APV)?

APV is any behaviour used by a young person to control, dominate or coerce parents. It is intended to threaten and intimidate and puts family safety at risk.

Whilst it is normal for adolescents to demonstrate healthy anger, conflict and frustration during their transition from childhood to adulthood, anger should not be confused with violence. Violence is about a range of behaviours, including non-physical acts, aimed at achieving on-going control over another person by instilling fear.

Most abused parents have difficulty admitting even to themselves that their child is abusive. They feel ashamed, disappointed and humiliated and blame themselves for the situation which has led to this imbalance of power. There is also an element of denial where parents convince themselves that their son or daughter’s behaviour is part of normal adolescent conduct.

How to tell whether adolescent behaviour is abuse

  • Behaviour is abusive if you are fearful of your adolescent and change your behaviour to avoid conflict
  • You find yourself ‘tip-toeing’ around your adolescent
  • You are constantly creating situations that your adolescent approves of
  • Your adolescent engages in ‘put downs’, or behaviour that humiliates and embarrasses you
  • Your adolescent threatens to leave home, hurt themselves or hurt another family member if you do not comply with their wishes

What parents may be feeling

  • I am totally alone. I am unable to share this problem with even my closest friend
  • I love my son/daughter, I just want the violence to stop
  • I have been undermined by my abusive adolescent and lost the respect of the rest of my family/friends
  • It’s my fault. He/she is my child and I have created this behaviour
  • How can I admit that one of my children is abusing me? I am so ashamed
  • I’m scared. Is this a passing phase, or will it get worse?
  • I feel powerless. I can’t see how I can fix this problem
  • I can’t trust my own son/daughter. I have to hide my wallet and keep my bedroom door locked at night
  • I am exhausted and depressed. Who can I turn to?
  • I’m a failure as a parent

Some ideas to help parents who are being abused

  • Have a safety plan – that may mean having the police phone number keyed into your mobile or a secret code word to alert a friend that you are in danger
  • Don’t keep your adolescent’s abuse a secret – talk to the rest of your family so that you have a shared response to your adolescent’s abusive behaviour
  • Find out about counselling services in your area. If one counsellor doesn’t provide you with the support you need, visit another
  • Abusive behaviour is cyclic. Learn to read the warning signals and remove other children to a safer place
  • Don’t take responsibility for the abuse. Protecting your abusive child may contribute to an escalation of violence

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Elder abuse

Elder abuse is a single or repeated act—or lack of appropriate action—occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

Elder abuse happens and it's important to know the signs.

The different types of elder abuse

Elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse

    Physical abuse is an act that causes physical pain or injury to an older person. It includes, but is not limited to, actions such as hitting, pushing or kicking.

    Inappropriate use of drugs or physical restraints is also an example of physical abuse.

  • Psychological abuse

    Psychological or emotional abuse is an act that causes emotional pain or injury to an older person. It includes, but is not limited to, insults or threats, humiliation or disrespect and controlling behaviours such as confining or isolating a person.

  • Financial abuse

    Financial abuse is the misuse or theft or an older person's money or assets. It includes, but is not limited to, using finances without permission, using a legal document such as an enduring power of attorney for purposes contrary to the interests of the older person, withholding care for financial gain, and selling or transferring property against the older person's wishes or without the person's knowledge.

  • Sexual abuse

    Sexual abuse is any sexual behaviour performed without an older person's consent. It includes sexual interactions and non-contact acts of a sexual nature that cause an older person to feel uncomfortable or threatened, or cause physical hurt.

  • Neglect

    Neglect is the failure of a carer to meet an older person's basic needs such as food, housing and essential medical care. It includes, but is not limited to, providing inadequate food, drink or supervision, isolating the older person, allocating medication inappropriately and failing to meet physical needs (e.g. in relation to hygiene and skin care).

Elder abuse can include...

  • frightening someone by threatening to hurt a pet or break belongings
  • intimidating, humiliating, or harassing a person
  • threatening to evict someone or put them in a nursing home
  • stopping a person from seeing family or friends
  • denying someone the right to make their own decisions
  • pension skimming
  • selling someone’s belongings without permission
  • misusing an Enduring Power of Attorney by taking money or property improperly
  • forcing a person to change their will
  • denying someone access or control of their own funds
  • not allowing services to help someone
  • neglecting a person’s physical, medical or emotional needs
  • slapping, hitting, pushing or restraining
  • making unwanted sexual approaches or behaving indecently.

Signs that someone may be experiencing abuse

The person may be:

  • afraid of someone close to them
  • irritable, or shaking, trembling or crying
  • depressed or withdrawn, talking of suicide
  • uninterested in their usual interests
  • presenting as helpless, hopeless or sad
  • worried or anxious for no obvious reason
  • reluctant to talk openly.

They may:

  • change their sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • have a rigid posture
  • make contradictory statements not associated with mental confusion
  • wait for another person to answer rather than answer questions themselves
  • radically change their behaviour.

If you know or suspect someone is being abused, you can...

  • Let them know that help is available.
  • Invite them to talk in a place where they are alone and safe, and listen to them.
  • Let them know it is not their fault.
  • Respect their right to make their own decisions.
  • Avoid being critical of the abusive person.
  • Keep providing support, even if they refuse help.

How to get help

  • In an emergency phone the police on Triple Zero (000)
  • Call the Elder Abuse Helpline (9am–5pm, Monday to Friday) for free and confidential advice for anyone experiencing elder abuse or who suspects someone they know may be experiencing elder abuse.
    Phone: 1300 651 192 (Queensland only) or (07) 3867 2525 (rest of Australia).
  • Legal support for seniors
  • Office of the Public Guardian looks after the interests of adults with impaired capacity

Contact these organisations for help and confidential advice:

  • Elder abuse helpline: Information, support and referrals for anyone experiencing abuse or witnessing the abuse of an older person.
    Phone: 1300 651 192
  • ADA Australia: Provides general advocacy support or guardianship advocacy to older Queenslanders experiencing discrimination, harm or abuse.
    Phone: 1800 700 600
  • Queensland Human Rights Commission: Phone: 1300 130 670
  • beyondblue: Depression and anxiety information, advice and referrals.
    Phone: 1300 224 636
  • Crime Stoppers: Information provided by the community assists with crime fighting and crime prevention.
    Phone: 1800 333 000
  • DV Connect: Provides free help for women, men, children, and pets affected by domestic and family violence across Queensland.
    Phone Women's Line: 1800 811 811
    Phone Men's Line: 1800 600 636
  • Lifeline: Counselling services for anyone at any time.
    Phone: 13 11 14
  • Office of the Public Guardian: Protects the rights and interests of vulnerable Queenslanders, including adults with impaired decision making capacity.
    Phone: 1300 653 187
  • Public Trustee: Provides a range of services that help you plan for the future.
    Phone: 1300 360 044
  • Seniors legal services: Free legal and support services for seniors.
  • Sexual assault help services: Contact details for local support groups.
  • Statewide sexual assault helpline: Counselling services for anyone who has been sexually abused or sexually assaulted at any time of their lives.
    Phone: 1800 010 120
  • Victims Counselling and Support Service: Counselling and support service provided to Queensland residents who have been personally affected by crime, either directly or indirectly.
    Phone: 1300 139 703 (24 hours, 7 days)
  • Women's Infolink: A free and confidential information and referral services about government agencies and community services supporting women.
    Phone: 1800 177 577 (Mondays to Fridays 8 am to 6 pm).

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Family Violence

Family violence is when a family member threatens, harms, controls or abuses another family member.

Family members include:

  • an adult in a family i.e. a partner or spouse, an adult child or an extended family member
  • Former adult family member i.e. former partner or spouse.

Family violence is an umbrella term used to describe all the different types of violence that can happen in families. This article focuses on the family violence that happens between partners and ex-partners.

Types of family violence

Family violence includes many different types of violence and abuse.

Emotional and psychological abuse

This kind of family violence is when a family member insults, upsets, intimidates, controls or humiliates another family member. It includes:

  • yelling, swearing and name-calling
  • putting someone down in front of other people or in private
  • using words to intimidate or threaten someone
  • doing or saying things to make someone feel confused or less confident
  • stopping someone from spending time with friends or family
  • stopping someone from practising their religion.

Physical abuse

This kind of family violence is any harmful or controlling physical behaviour that one family member uses towards another. It includes:

  • shoving, pushing, punching, hitting, slapping, biting or choking
  • using weapons or objects to harm someone
  • damaging or destroying someone’s personal belongings or property
  • harming other family members or family pets.

Sexual abuse

This kind of family violence is any unwanted sexual behaviour by one family member towards another. It includes:

  • threatening or intimidating someone into unwanted sexual activities
  • exposing someone to sexual images or content they don’t want to see
  • sharing sexual images or content about someone without consent
  • engaging in unwanted sexual contact with someone
  • raping someone.

Harassment, stalking and threats of harm

This kind of family violence is unwanted behaviour like:

  • following someone to see where they’re going or who they’re meeting
  • tracking phone calls or phone locations
  • constantly ringing or texting someone
  • threatening to harm someone or the people close to them.

Other types of abuse include financial abuse. This can include not letting someone have money or using someone’s money against their best interests.

Signs of family violence in someone you know

Family violence happens to one in four Australian women. So you’ll probably know or come across someone who has experienced family violence of some kind.

But people experiencing family violence often don’t tell anyone. This might be because they’ve been threatened about telling anyone or they don’t think anyone will believe them. Also, people experiencing family violence sometimes blame themselves for the abuse or feel ashamed about it, so they don’t want to talk about

Signs you can look out for. The person might:

  • regularly have physical injuries like scratches or bruises – the person might say that the injuries don’t matter or are because of a clumsy accident
  • seem afraid of their partner
  • speak about their partner as being jealous, moody or bad tempered
  • describe their partner as controlling – for example, the person has to get their partner’s approval to do things or go places
  • seem more anxious, jumpy, distant or depressed than usual
  • be often criticised by their partner
  • not socialise as much as in the past
  • not want to leave children with their partner or family member.

If you’re experiencing family violence

Speak to a GP, child and family health nurse or other health professional.

  • Call a telephone support service like 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
  • Speak to a trusted family member or friend for support.

If someone you know is experiencing family violence

If you think that a friend or family member is experiencing family violence, let them know you’re concerned. If they don’t want to talk about it right away, let them know that they can trust you, and that you’re there for them when they’re ready.

Find out about local support services so you have some practical options to offer when the person is ready to talk to you.

It’s important to avoid judging the person for being in an abusive relationship. They might not be ready to leave the relationship or they might not want to. And leaving an abusive relationship can take many attempts and can be a very difficult and long process.

Just being listened to and believed can be very important for people experiencing family violence.

Why does family violence happen?

Family violence is about power and control. By making someone afraid, the person using violence keeps power and control in the relationship.

There is no excuse for family violence. Family violence is never OK. It’s never justified by feelings, family circumstances, background, past experiences, or use of alcohol and other drugs.

No matter how long someone stays in a relationship with family violence, or how many times they leave the relationship and come back, the person experiencing family violence is never to blame.

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