Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Mothers' experience

Mothers experience violence and harm in many ways

A growing body of research, informed by mothers, gives us a better understanding of the multiple experiences and harms of violence.

What we know about mother’s experiences

  • Mothers’ experiences of being abused are complex and context specific.
  • Mothers make attempts to protect themselves and their children from violence and control.
  • Mothers’ choices and acts of protection are constrained by their access to resources, the often poor responses they receive from services, the social context (such as race, poverty and disability) and the nature and scope of a father’s control (Laing, 2008).

What we know about multiple types of harm

  • Domestic violence comes in different forms including physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, social, financial and spiritual violence.
  • The harm caused by domestic violence can ripple out, causing ongoing stresses and difficulties for a mother and her family, such as chronic or cyclic homelessness.
  • The violence can be debilitating, although mothers can and do recover once they are safe.
  • Some mothers will use alcohol and other drugs as a way of coping with the trauma from violence.

Look at the Deluth Power and control wheel to learn more.

Mothers experience violence in their own way. Read their stories at the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research and Safe and Equal. These collections of women's voices show how complicated and overwhelming living with violence can be.

Practice prompt

Just because a mother leaves a father does not mean she leaves the violence. Domestic violence, and the harm it causes, does not necessarily end when a mother leaves. For some, the violence and severity of harm may escalate. Women are most likely to be murdered or seriously harmed by an ex-partner in the 12 to 18 months after the relationship has ended.

Form of violence Examples of violence
Emotional and verbal violence
  • words or phrases used to humiliate, degrade, demean, embarrass or intimidate
  • harassment at the mother’s workplace
  • threats to remove the mother’s children using systems such as Family Court or by notifying Child Safety
  • threats to harm pets, property or possessions
  • threats to suicide if the relationship ends
  • threats to kill or harm the mother and/or children.
Physical violence      
  • pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, strangling, choking, biting, shaking, inflicting burns and hair pulling
  • using a weapon such as a belt, knife or gun to harm the partner, children or pets.
Sexual violence
  • forcing a person to have sex or take part in sexual acts against their will
  • using an object or body part to penetrate the vagina, mouth or anus without consent
  • injuring sexual organs
  • forcing a person to have unsafe sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections
  • forcing someone to observe or take part in sexual activities, pornography, voyeurism or exhibitionism.
Social violence         
  • behaviour that limits, controls or interferes with a person’s social activities or relationships with others
  • excessive questioning, stalking, and monitoring of movements and social communications, including texts or social networking
  • social control and isolation to separate the victim from friends, family and community agencies
  • limiting and controlling a person’s movements.
Financial violence
  • exercising control of all finances in order to increase the powerlessness and dependence of the victim
  • taking the victim’s money, or personal items such as keys and car
  • making a person ask for necessities
  • demanding that a person maintain a household on limited amounts of housekeeping money and then abusing them for not being able to do so.
Spiritual and cultural violence
  • denying the victim access to cultural land, sites or family
  • denying the victim access to cultural or spiritual ceremonies or rites
  • preventing religious observances or practices
  • enforcing religious ways and practices against the victim’s own beliefs
  • undermining the victim’s cultural background, particularly for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • threatening deportation, or to withdraw support for applications made through the Department of Home Affairs.


Version history

Back to top

Published on:

Last reviewed:

  • Date: 
  • Date: 
  • Date: 
    Page created