Sadly, domestic and family violence is a reality in Australian society, although it is not something we want to talk about.
However when we look at the damage it does to our families and future generations, we realise that it is an issue that needs to be discussed and addressed at every level in our community.
The idea of domestic violence was first recognized in Australia in the 1980s and has evolved to become a criminal offence which can lead to jail time for the perpetrator.
In Queensland, domestic violence legislation includes people in relationships of the opposite gender and the same gender, engaged couples, persons in de facto relationships, and those who are married. Until just a few years ago, domestic violence was largely hidden, but is now receiving national attention (5), with recent high profile cases including:
- Gerard Bayden-Clay, found guilty of murdering his wife Alyson (7);
- the murder of Luke Batty by his father, Gregg Anderson at the Tyabb cricket ground in South East Melbourne (1).
Defining Domestic and Family Violence
Domestic and family violence is defined differently when it comes to the laws in each state and territory in Australia; it is grouped in the wider context of all violence.
When we mention family violence, it refers to all forms of violence between family members, including current and former sexual partners. It is interesting to note that family violence is the preferred term amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, because it encompasses the notion of violence in kinship and extended families.
Domestic violence is viewed as a subset of family violence, and is used to described abuse between current and former sexual partners, where one tries to have power and control over the other, normally by means of fear (2).
Domestic and family violence is a serious problem in the society we live in; while we normally associate it with physical abuse, domestic and family violence can include emotional, psychological and sexual abuse (9).
As an issue which affects all ages and all socio-economic and demographic groups in Australia, family and domestic violence is a major health and welfare issue across the nation, with the majority of the impact on women and children (2).
Australian Statistics on Domestic and Family Violence
The following statistics are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017:
- Men are more likely to experience violence from strangers and in public areas, while women usually know the abuser, with the violence against her generally taking place in the home.
- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have been subjected to violence since the age of 15. It is shocking to learn that about 54% of women experienced current partner violence (more than one incident), with the figures remaining stable between the years 2005 to 2016.
- It is interesting to note that between 2014 and 2015, an average of 8 women and 2 men were hospitalised each day due to partner assault.
- The saddest of the statistics shows that between 2012 and 2014, 1 woman was killed per week and 1 man per month, due to partner violence.
- When it comes to emotional abuse, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience emotional abuse from a partner.
The people mostly likely to be on the receiving end of violence are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, young women, pregnant women, women with disabilities, women experiencing financial hardship, and women and men who experienced abuse or witnessed domestic violence as children. Statistics show that family violence is higher in Indigenous Australians than non-indigenous Australians (2).
The statistics further show that most women report violence by their partner after separation, and not during the time they were together (4).
The figures provided by the Australian police services, are based on how often police officers work with domestic violence cases. On an average the police are called to an estimated 657 cases per day, every day of the year; that equates to one case every two minutes. Looking at the statistics we have no choice but to admit there is a domestic and family violence problem in our country (3).
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
So what are the signs of an abusive relationship?
Although violence may seem a clear indication, there are many other forms of abuse, such as when your partner:
- frequently insults, puts you down and likes to humiliate you.
- controls what you do and where you go.
- is extremely jealous.
- threatens to hurt you; the people close to you, and your pets.
- threatens to take your children away, or turn them against you.
- is violent and aggressive.
- forces you to do sexual things against your will.
- blames you for their unhappiness and violent behaviour.
- controls your access to money, friends and family (6).
The good news is that help is available for victims, and also the perpetrators, of abuse. There are a variety of places where victims can go to for assistance; one option is to see a counsellor.
Although some may wonder how a counsellor can help a domestic and family violence victim, there are a variety of ways, such as by:
- believing the client’s story: in listening to the story, the counsellor asks the client non-leading questions.
- building and focusing on the strengths of the client, so that they can believe in themselves again.
- validating the feelings of the client: the abused partner is often confused by seemingly conflicting feelings: love, anger, betrayal, hope, fear, hopelessness, sadness and feelings of guilt.
- not assigning blame: a counsellor can reinforce the fact that the victim is NOT to blame for the abuse.
- taking the client’s fears seriously, and discussing the options for overcoming the worries and fears of the client.
- drawing on their network of connections. The client can be referred to various organisations for help with practical support and legal advice.
- during the counselling process, the client will be assisted in identifying each problem or threat, and working out ways these risks can be overcome (8).
Domestic and family violence is never acceptable, and it is never the victim’s fault. The only way to stop it is to speak up when you are a victim of domestic and family violence – or to offer your support and help to somebody that you know is a victim. Abuse is never okay.
Author: Corey Human, B Th, M Counselling. Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience in providing counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans. In relationship counselling and education, his aim is to empower each couple with the tools to help themselves when they get to points of conflict in their relationship.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
- ABC News. (2015). Luke Batty death: No-one could have predicted Luke would be killed by his father, coroner finds. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-28/luke-batty-death-at-tyabb-victoria-coroners-findings/6808638 [Accessed 31 May 2018].
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018). Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence. [online] Canberra: Australian Government, pp.1-146. Available at: http://file:///C:/Users/doxac/Desktop/domestic%20violence%20Government%20paper%202018.pdf [Accessed 26 May 2018].
- Blumer, C. (2015). Australian Police deal with a domestic violence matter every two minutes. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-29/domestic-violence-data/6503734 [Accessed 29 May 2018].
- Douglas, H. (2017). Why are rates of domestic violence in Australia still so high?. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/why-are-rates-of-domestic-violence-in-australia-still-so-high-87187 [Accessed 26 May 2018].
- Goldsworthy, T. and Raj, M. (2014). Out of the Shadows: The rise of domestic violence in Australia. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/out-of-the-shadows-the-rise-of-domestic-violence-in-australia-29280 [Accessed 26 May 2018].
- gov.au. (2018). Signs of an abusive relationship. [online] Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/signs-of-an-abusive-relationship [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
- Murray, D. (2014). The Murder of Alison Baden-Clay; All marriages have their secrets. Sydney: Ebury Press, p.425.
- South African Aids Training Program; Counselling Guidelines on Domestic Violence. (2001). pp.11 & 12.
- (2015). Domestic Violence A Recurring Problem In Modern Society Criminology Essay. [online] Available at: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/criminology/domestic-violence-a-recurring-problem-in-modern-society-criminology-essay.php [Accessed 26 May 2018].