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What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence is about power and control. It can be behavior that makes you feel scared. You do not need to be physically hurt to have experienced domestic and family violence. It can happen all through a relationship. It can start or get worse at certain times, like after separation, during pregnancy or during court matters. It can happen even if the other person is good or nice to you at other times. The law says domestic and family violence is not allowed.

Some examples of domestic and family violence are:

  • Physical or sexual abuse: this can be punching, hitting, bashing, choking, touching you when you don’t want to be touched, or forcing you to have sex or do sexual things you don’t want to do
  • Damaging property or hurting an animal: this can be damaging property you or they own or share or belongs to someone else like a child, hitting walls, throwing things, damaging a car, cutting cables or a phone line, or kicking or hurting a pet
  • Intimidation or harassment: this can be jealousing, blaming, humbugging, crazy-making, yelling or screaming, threats, unwanted phone calls or messages, making you feel scared, threatening to kill or hurt themselves, stopping contact with family and/or friends, controlling what you can do or say, putting you down, blaming you, saying you will be deported, saying no-one will believe you, threatening to tell someone about your sexual orientation
  • Stalking: this can be making you feel worried because they follow you, watch you or phone or message you again and again
  • Economic abuse: this can be controlling, withholding or taking money or property, like a credit card or access to a bank account, closely watching what you spend, stopping you from working or studying, taking your things, or not giving you access to money for you or a child

Threats to do any of the above behaviours, or getting someone else to do those things, are also domestic and family violence


Domestic and family violence can happen to anyone. It can happen in lots of relationships, like:

  • A current or ex-partner, married or not married, people can be the same or different genders, and it doesn’t matter if there was no sex
  • Family members, like brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, cousins, parents, children, in-laws, or a relative in Aboriginal culture
  • People who are living together or have lived together
  • People in a caring relationship


Domestic and family violence can have bad effects on you and on children. It can make you worried, stressed or ashamed. It can make your body or mind feel wrong, sick or hurt. It can make you feel hopeless or not feel like doing anything. You may not want to speak to anyone, go to work, or care for family.


Domestic and family violence can damage babies’ and children’s growing brains. Children can be affected even if they don’t see or hear the domestic and family violence.

Children may be exposed by seeing a parent fight or shout, seeing a parent hurt, seeing damaged property, or knowing abuse is happening. If children are exposed, they may blame themselves, miss school to care for a parent, feel sad or helpless, find it hard to make friends or do schoolwork, or they may copy the abusive person and think violence is normal.

Get help

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence, please get help.

  • If someone is in danger or needs immediate help, call police on 131 444 or 000 in an emergency
  • Call a lawyer for advice about a domestic violence order
  • Talk to someone you trust like a friend, family member or support person

These people may be able to help you make a safety plan, stay somewhere safe, or get a domestic violence order.

Click here to download ‘What is domestic and family violence?’ as a pdf flyer

You can call us on (08) 8999 7977, email us at, or visit our website

You can also call the Legal Aid Helpline on 1800 019 343

What is a domestic violence order?

A domestic violence order (DVO) is an order made by the Local Court under the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT) which restricts the behaviour of one person towards another. A DVO can be enforced by the police.

The person applying for the DVO is referred to as the applicant. The person who will be protected by the DVO is referred to as the protected person. The person whose behaviour the applicant is seeking to restrain is referred to as the defendant.

Key features of a DVO

  • A DVO is a civil order of the court that restrains a perpetrator (the defendant) from committing future domestic violence against the victim/s (protected person/s)
  • A DVO is not a criminal sanction, is not included on a person’s criminal record and is not intended to punish the defendant
  • A defendant may ‘consent without admissions to liability’ to the making of DVO. A DVO consented to without admissions to liability would not affect the civil or criminal liability of the defendant in respect of conduct to which the DVO relates.
  • NT DVO’s are Nationally Recognised Orders. This means that they are valid and enforceable in all Australian States and also in New Zealand.
  • It is a criminal offence not to comply with terms of a DVO.
How do I get one?

An application for a DVO can made against a person aged 15 years or older. An application may have a number of protected persons, but there can only be one defendant in an application for a DVO.

Any of the following people can apply to the court for a domestic violence order:

  • An adult or young person (15 -17 years) who is in a domestic relationship with the defendant
  • An adult acting on behalf of another adult or child who is in a domestic relationship with the defendant
  • A police officer, and
  • In relation to a child, a police officer or child protection officer
Police DVOs

The law gives Police the power to make a DVO on the spot where it is necessary to ensure a person’s safety because of urgent circumstances or because it is not otherwise practicable in the circumstances to obtain a Local Court DVO, and a Local Court DVO might reasonably have been made had it been practicable to apply for one. A police DVO is in place on a temporary basis until made final (with or without variations) or revoked.

Police have the power to:

  • Make a DVO even if the defendant has not had the opportunity to answer any allegations, and
  • Make a DVO even if either the protected person and/or the defendant say they do not want a DVO.

Click a topic to find resources.

Dawn House has fact sheets including on what is domestic violence, some warning signs, safety planning and practical advice. Available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

Family Violence Law Help has a lot of great information about domestic and family violence, how it affects kids, myths and misunderstandings, online safety and staying safe. It also has information on family law, child protection law, family advocacy and support service, getting help and domestic violence orders.

NAPCAN has brochures available for download, including brochures on “Domestic and family violence hurts children too!” and “Keeping children safe from sexual abuse”. Available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

Relationships Australia has publications on relationships, separation, children, and family violence, available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

eSafetywomen has information on using technology safely available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

There are guides in 12 different languages available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

Wesnet has a Technology Safety & Privacy Tooklit, with handouts and videos available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

Dawn House also has information on using the internet safely, available here: site does not have a Quick Exit Option. Proceed with care

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