30 April 2024

Is verbal abuse a crime?

Astor Legal


Led by Accredited Specialist Avinash Singh, Astor Legal offers expert knowledge in criminal and traffic law, focusing on achieving the best outcome for clients. With experience representing elite athletes, the firm has a strong reputation among Magistrates and Judges. Offering fixed fees and 24/7 availability, Astor Legal provides quality legal representation typically reserved for Australia's elite to everyday people. Contact them for assistance.
What is verbal abuse? Is it a crime? Is it DV? Can I get an AVO? Offensive language; intimidation; examples.
Australia Criminal Law
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on

Victims of verbal abuse often wonder whether it is a crime and whether there is any recourse for them. This is particularly so when it occurs in the context of a domestic violence situation.

Obtaining an apprehended violence order (AVO) is a possibility but only in circumstances where the conduct meets the requisite criteria.

What is Verbal Abuse?

Verbal Abuse is a form of emotional abuse where a person uses their words to assault, dominate, ridicule, manipulate or degrade someone. It is a means of controlling and maintaining power over another person. It often consists of shouting, screaming and cursing.

Is verbal abuse a crime?

Verbal abuse is not a crime unless it is used to intimidate another person. Under Section 13 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW), it is a criminal offence to stalk or intimidate another person with the intention of causing them to fear physical or mental harm.

Using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend a person can also be considered a criminal offence. It can also include 'offensive' material through technological means. A carriage service can include email, phone and social media applications.

To be found guilty of intimidation, police must prove that the verbal abuse was intended to intimidate and cause fear of physical or mental harm. Intimidation can be proven even if the victim does not fear physical or mental harm.

Can I Get an AVO for Verbal Abuse?

You can get AVO for verbal abuse if you hold fears and there are reasonable grounds for those fears.

Police can apply for an AVO or you can apply for a private AVO. You should speak to a leading AVO lawyer who can advise you on whether there are grounds for you to apply for an AVO based on your circumstances. If you have any evidence such as text messages or emails, you should keep copies of these as they can be crucial in supporting your allegations.

Standard AVO conditions include prohibiting assault, harassment, threats, stalking, intimidation, damaging property and harming pets. Additional conditions can prevent a person from contacting the protected person as well as any persons with whom they have a domestic relationship.

Offensive Language

Using offensive language in a public place or a school is an offence under section 4A of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW). Offensive language is not precisely defined, however, the court will consider the words used, surrounding circumstances and your intent. The maximum penalty for using offensive language is a $660 fine. The police can issue on-the-spot fines of $500 for this offence.


Intimidation is an offence pursuant to Section 13 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. Verbal abuse that amounts to intimidation can include harassment, persistent unwanted contact, threats, or any behaviour that induces fear of violence.

In certain circumstances, the Court can consider the defendant's history of violent behaviour (especially domestic violence) when determining whether you are guilty of intimidation. As it is an offence of specific intent, the magistrate will also take into account whether the defendant intended to cause physical or mental harm.

Is verbal abuse domestic violence?

Verbal abuse is domestic violence if it is committed within a domestic relationship and causes a person to fear physical or mental harm. Under the Family Law Act 1975, domestic violence is defined as, "violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person's family, or causes the family member to be fearful".

Examples Of Verbal Assault

Examples of verbal abuse include:

  • Threats
  • Cyberbullying
  • Offensive language
  • Belittling language
  • Intimidation
See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More