How many of these 36 family violence behaviours do you tick?


When men with histories of family violence sign up for Relationships Australia’s Men's Behavior Change program, this is the checklist they’re asked to fill out...

This piece was originally published in October 2018. We republished it again in 2019 following the death of seven women at the hands of people known to them in under a fortnight. We're republishing it again now, in 2020, after a Brisbane mother and her three children died at the hands of her estranged husband this week.

When we think about family violence, most of us think about physical abuse. But Michael Riley, a senior counsellor at Relationships Australia, tells The Feed that family violence plays out across a spectrum of abuse – and early detection of ‘control issues’ can save lives.

“It can be a man stopping his wife from going out with her friends on a Friday night, or tracking and limiting the purchases she makes for the family. […] Men need to ask themselves, ‘What is it about me that needs to maintain control in this relationship and how can I let go of that control?’”

And it is men who need to ask themselves the hard questions, says Mr Riley. “While there absolutely are women who commit family violence, the stats show it’s very much a man’s issue.” The sample of family violence behaviours listed below is for a men's behaviour change program. Relationships Australia is one of many counselling services that offer programs tailored for everyone in the family. 

Jerry participated in a men's group therapy program with Relationships Australia and this is what he told The Feed about his experience:

“It’s really interesting seeing the new guys come in [to group therapy] and say things like, ‘Look, it's not like I punched her. I just slapped her with an open hand’ or 'I didn't smash the mug on her. I just smashed it on the wall beside her. It’s not violence, it’s just me venting.’ That’s the kind of minimizing that is so common among guys – we tell ourselves what we need to hear to make it bearable to live with ourselves.”

When reading through the checklist below, ask yourself, ‘Have I done this once, more than once and to whom?’

Family Violence Behaviours Checklist:  

  1. Slapping/grabbing/punching
  2. Smashing/throwing things
  3. Punching the wall/pounding the table
  4. Using looks, actions and gestures to make her feel afraid
  5. Destroying her property
  6. Hurting pets
  7. Displaying weapons
  8. Trying to make her feel guilty about not having sex
  9. Having sex when she is asleep or passed out from intoxication
  10. Demanding sex
  11. Threatening to commit suicide 
  12. Making her drop Police charges
  13. Making her do illegal things
  14. Putting her down
  15. Monitoring her mobile phone
  16. Criticizing her body shape
  17. Making her think she’s crazy
  18. Giving her an allowance 

     In #YesAllMen, documentary-maker Marty Smiley asks 'Is toxic masculinity killing Aussie men?' 

  19. Making her feel guilty
  20. Controlling who she sees 
  21. Controlling what she reads
  22. Controlling where she goes
  23. Not letting her get a drivers licence or have access to a car
  24. Using jealousy to justify your actions
  25. Making light of your abuse – not taking her concerns seriously
  26. Blaming her for the abuse
  27. Blaming drugs or alcohol for the abuse
  28. Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
  29. Making her ask for money
  30. Not letting her know about or have access to family income
  31. Expecting her to buy groceries and pay the bills with inadequate money
  32. Using the children to relay messages to her
  33. Threatening to report her to DOCS
  34. Stalking or trolling her over social media 
  35. Tracking her movements using a mobile phone app 
  36. Do you think your behaviour has caused problems in your relationship?

The above list of behaviours is a sample from a longer checklist that participants are asked to fill out. The checklist is not a test to gain access to the Men's Behaviour Change program; it’s a way for participants to think about how their behaviour is linked to family breakdown.    

If you’re concerned about the number of boxes you’ve ticked and would like some support, please visit Relationships Australia or call 1300 364 277. 

If you or a friend might be at risk of family violence, please visit or call 1800 737 732.