Please note this story includes information about Domestic and Family Violence which may cause distress. You can reach out to the Domestic violence crisis lines at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or the Domestic Violence Hotline (1800 65 64 63) if you need immediate support.

The month of May is Domestic and Family Violence Awareness Month.

Domestic and Family Violence does not discriminate against socio-economic status, culture, race, or sexuality. Children are often the unseen victims of Domestic and Family Violence, with impacts starting in utero and across the lifespan, causing domestic and family violence to be the primary cause of disease burden across society. 

In Australia, Domestic and Family Violence is often a gendered crime, that occurs in a pattern of tactics and behaviours which assert power and control over an intimate partner, or family member.  

Are you are using any, or a combination of the following in your relationships?

  • Any form of physical violence
  • Sexual violence – force or manipulate someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent
  • Verbal abuse – name-calling and making threats, constantly correcting, interrupting, putting down, and demeaning
  • Technological Abuse - using technology to coerce, stalk or harass 
  • Stalking and Harassment
  • Financial control and exclusion
  • Reproductive coercion includes a range of pregnancy controlling behaviours including birth control sabotage as well as forced sex and rape and abortions as a sign of demonstrating her love.
  • Socially isolating the victim away from family, community and key supports; sometimes with the use of systems such as false child protection reports, or false reports to police
  • Emotional and psychological abuse, including gaslighting and blaming the victim for the violence

If you answered yes to any of the above, it is time to take responsibility and make a change. Call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 for support and information or find out more about a free voluntary program for men, Changing for Good

Factors contributing to domestic and family violence

The current evidence points to a range of factors that lead to domestic and family violence. Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour, it is a choice and a purposeful way to control and manipulate an intimate partner.

Within this understanding, there are a range of societal factors which may contribute to the presence of domestic and family violence, including:

  • Social and economic policy
  • Social and cultural beliefs. 
  • Systemic abuse and poor media representation, which often place responsibility for violence in the hands of victims. 
  • Lack of education across all systems of service provision – health, schools, welfare, etc. 
  • Social & economic crisis – natural disasters, pandemics, recession
  • Complexities and barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse, LGBTIQA+ communities and other diverse groups in accessing services 

There are also individual and family circumstances, which may escalate the risk for domestic violence occurring, which include:

  • Financial stress & unemployment
  • Intergenerational trauma and experiences of violence
  • The presence of alcohol and other drugs use in a household
  • The presence of mental health issues in a household
  • Pregnancy
  • The 6-12 months after a woman and her children have left the relationship 

It is important to understand that whilst these factors may contribute to the risk of domestic violence choice, power and control remain the cause. 

Are you experiencing Domestic Violence (DV)?

It is important for any person who is experiencing domestic violence to know they are not to blame for the violence they are experiencing. Reaching out and strengthening support networks can be a key first step in breaking the silence and exploring their experience, whether this is with a friend or safe person, or professional service. Domestic violence crisis lines such as 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or the DV Hotline (1800 65 64 63) are useful starting points for victims to access professional support, if they are not aware of what local services may be available to them. 

Being linked in with a professional service can help individuals experiencing domestic violence to increase their safety and take action from an informed, supported and empowered place. This is particularly important if they are planning to leave a violent relationship, as this is the time where there may be increased risk from further harm from their partner or former partner.  There are a number of actions that victims can do in planning to leave including saving money, collecting their key documents, packing an escape bag with immediate supplies, and assessing the safety of the technology they are currently using. 

Do you have a friend who needs help?

If you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, it is important to respect their decisions, even if you do not understand them. It is helpful to be mindful that some people who experience domestic violence carry guilt and shame, and that it is useful to acknowledge the strength it takes to come forward and seek support. It is worthwhile consulting a professional service as bringing awareness may increase the risk of harm to the victim in the relationship.

What can we do as a Community?

Continuing to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence, and what to do when we noticed domestic violence can help to change the culture which has kept domestic violence hidden behind closed doors for decades.  Men speaking up about other men’s behaviour and avoiding ‘boys club’ culture can be highly effective in changing attitudes towards women and excusing perpetrators behaviour. Challenge your own belief systems and attitudes so you can be open to hear, believe and support women and children experiencing domestic violence. Ask “why doesn’t he stop?” rather than “why doesn’t she leave?”

Australians and communities can also be advocates for change in supporting reforms which better protect women and children; including acknowledgment in the Family Law Courts that a parent who perpetrates domestic violence is also perpetrating abuse towards their children.  Amplifying the voice of children who have experienced domestic violence could be a key to changing the thinking and attitudes around domestic violence as an adult’s issue. 

Most importantly believe women and children. Perpetrators of violence do not wear a sign or have a “type”. Men who use violence come from all walks of life.