Physical abuse is the intentional unwanted use of physical force to cause fear or harm. Sometimes physically abusive behaviour does not cause injury or pain, but it’s still abusive.

83% of women assessed by safe steps between 2016-17 had been harmed or threatened with harm. 52% had been choked.

Examples of physical abuse

  • Pushing, shoving, slapping, scratching, biting, kicking or hair pulling
  • Maiming someone
  • Restraining (eg. pinning someone against a wall or bed)
  • Choking, strangling or shaking
  • Throwing objects
  • Threatening with a weapon
  • Hurting children or pets
  • Sleep and food deprivation
  • Driving recklessly

Impacts of physical abuse

Physical abuse can have both immediate and long term effects. Immediate physical effects will depend on the severity of the assault, ranging from bruising and abrasions to broken bones, internal bleeding, head injuries, permanent disability and death. But non-life threatening physical abuse can still have devastating long term impacts that can be psychological – post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour, substance abuse – and physical – arthritis, migraines and chronic pain.

Pregnant women are more likely to experience physical abuse and may suffer poor weight gain, premature labour or miscarriage as a result.

If you are experiencing physical abuse…

  • Ensure you are safe – if you are in immediate danger or have just experienced physical abuse, before doing anything else you should ensure your safety. Contact the police or emergency services on 000 immediately and try to get to a safe place.
  • Seek medical help – you may need medical assistance. If you can, go to a hospital or doctor.
  • Call safe steps – you can call safe steps 24/7 on 1800 015 188 for confidential support and assistance including access to safe emergency accommodation for you and your children.