Domestic violence occurs when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempt to physically or psychologically dominate or harm the other. While women are at greater risk of family, domestic and sexual violence, men are more likely to experience violence from strangers and in a public place. Women are most likely to know the perpetrator (often their current or a previous partner), and the violence usually takes place in their home. Domestic violence can be exhibited in many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation or threats of violence to name a few and we will unpack these further in a moment. Domestic violence occurs in all geographic areas of Australia and all socioeconomic and cultural groups.
One in 6 Australian women and 1 in 16 men have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner (ABS 2017b). Some groups of people are at greater risk of family, domestic and sexual violence, particularly Indigenous women, young women, pregnant women, women separating from their partners, women with disability and women experiencing financial hardship. Women and men who experienced abuse or witnessed domestic violence as children (before the age of 15) are also at increased risk.
Nearly 2.1 million women and men witnessed violence towards their mother by a partner, and nearly 820,000 witnessed violence towards their father, before the age of 15. People who, as children, witnessed partner violence against their parents were 2–4 times as likely to experience partner violence themselves (as adults) as people who had not (ABS 2017b). Is it fair to say that history has a habit of repeating itself? What we accept will continue, and we must change history not only for ourselves but for the generations to come.
Abuse is serious! In 2014–15, on average, almost eight women and two men were hospitalised each day after being assaulted by their spouse or partner (AIHW 2017b). From 2012–13 to 2013–14, about one woman a week and one man a month were killed as a result of violence from a current or previous partner (Bryant & Bricknell 2017). I want to highlight that abuse is not ok whether you can psychically see the abuse or not.
What do power and control look like?
- Intimidation can look like making someone afraid by using looks, actions, gestures, smashing things, destroying property, abusing pets and displaying weapons.
- Emotional abuse looks like putting someone down, making them feel bad about themselves, calling them names, making someone think that they’re crazy, playing mind games, humiliation and making someone feel guilty. Almost 1 in 4 (23%) women and 1 in 6 (16%) men have experienced emotional abuse from a current or previous partner since the age of 15 (ABS 2017b).
- Isolation takes on its form by controlling what someone does, who they see or talk to, what they read, where they go, limiting outside involvement and using jealousy to justify actions.
- Minimising, denying and blaming looks like making light of the abuse and not taking someone’s concerns about it seriously, it is saying the abuse didn’t happen, shifting responsibility for abusive behaviours and saying the other caused it.
- Using Children to make the other parent feel guilty, using the children to relay messages, using visitations to harass him or her and threatening to take the children away.
- Gender privilege can look like treating others as a servant, making all the big decisions and being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.
- Economic abuse looks like preventing someone from getting or keeping a job, making the other ask for money, giving him or her an allowance, taking their money, not letting them know about or have access to the family income.
- Making threats and or carrying out threats to do something to hurt another, threatening to leave, to commit suicide or to report him or her to welfare, making the other drop charges and making him or her do illegal things.
There are ways to get help, and a starting point is to call 000 for Police and Ambulance help if you or if someone else is in immediate danger. 1800RESPECT:1800 737 732 is a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. 1800 respect.org.au have resources available from checklists, what to include in a safety plan, support services and how to keep yourself and your children safe
On a finishing note, it’s not helpful to minimise abuse. It is best to call it for what it is. Abuse is never ok, and there is help available. I encourage you to share this episode so together we can continue to raise awareness around domestic violence.