For most Australians, bruises and black eyes are the tell-tale signs of domestic violence. But what if every Australian could see the signs of abuse that can run much deeper than physical violence?

For most Australians, bruises and black eyes are the tell-tale signs of domestic violence. But what if every Australian could see the signs of abuse that can run much deeper than physical violence?

BaptistCare HopeStreet has undertaken research to measure Australian’s awareness of the seven types of domestic abuse – economic, sexual, spiritual, verbal, emotional, physical and social. It found that older Australians are much more likely to recognise all forms of domestic violence than younger generations, indicating a concerning lack of awareness of the many signs of domestic abuse among young people.  

This generational divide highlights an urgent need to educate young Australians about healthy relationships and how to respond in situations where abuse of any kind (not just the most common or visible) is evident.

Physical violence was unsurprisingly the most recognised form of abuse (recognised by 89%), followed by sexual and verbal (85%), while the least recognised form was social (65%). This is particularly concerning for us as we have seen a dramatic rise in social abuse in recent years.

The recognition of social abuse is particularly prevalent among older Australians, as they are twice as likely to recognise a man texting his partner incessantly to check up on where she is and who she’s with as a form of abuse than those aged 18-24 (81%; cf 40%).

This particular form of abuse has intensified by the role technology plays in our day-to-day lives. Smart devices and applications enable perpetrators to track, monitor and control their partners in increasingly aggressive ways. Being accessible 24/7 is having an increasing effect on domestic violence survivors, and the law has been slow to recognise this. The NSW Government only recently announced its plan to amend the law to make it clear that people who stalk or intimidate others online or via text message can be jailed for up to five years. They will also allow NSW Police to seek apprehended violence orders in response to serious online abuse.

While we welcome the introduction of these changes, there still needs to be better public education about the role of tech in cases of domestic violence, and the signs Australians should be looking out for.

That’s why we’ve launched the More Than Skin Deep campaign via social media, with videos depicting the different types of abuse, insights from our research and resources to help Australians to recognise, respond to and refer cases of domestic violence.

We hope this campaign will help more Australians identify signs of all forms of domestic violence, and that they will be emboldened and equipped with the right information to step forward and offer support in a respectful way.

To learn more about the campaign, our research and the different types of domestic violence visit https://morethanskindeep.org.au/