Domestic Violence can be defined as violence occurring within a household or between family members. Its most common form is violence by a husband against a wife (legal or de facto) but it can also include violence by wife against a husband or child against parent. Violence by parent against child is more commonly referred to as child abuse.
The violence may be physical, sexual or verbal or it may take the form of continual and habitual psychological, social or financial abuse.
The last twenty years have seen a considerable increase in the incidence of domestic violence reported, concomitant with an increase in violence generally throughout society.
In this context Women’s Action Alliance believes that:
Despite this, domestic violence is not the norm. All men cannot be viewed as potential abusers of women. Equally, most families are not violent, threatening environments but rather places of nurture, support and security for their members. Australian Institute of Families Studies’ research supports this contention.
There is no easy solution to the problem of domestic violence as its elimination requires changes in the very nature of society. Until people develop a sense of respect for others and a recognition of the worth of each individual, violence will continue. and the weaker members of the community will largely be the victims.
It is the family which is principally responsible for building the character of individuals, and it is in functioning families that feelings of self worth, respect for others and conflict resolution skills are developed. It is thus vital that support is given to families to enable them to nurture these qualities which, if not developed in the early, formative years, are very hard to instil later.
At the same time, it is important to break the cycle of violence in those families where it occurs, as it has been established that children reared in this environment are more likely to become either victims or perpetrators themselves. For this reason counselling (including techniques of conflict management, negotiation, anger control, etc. where appropriate) is vital for all family members affected by domestic violence. Community funding should be available for this in order to ensure accessibility to all who require it. Referral to full psychiatric care should be made where necessary as voluntary counsellors are not trained to deal with socio-pathic problems.
Violent behaviour injures its victims and demeans its perpetrator. Where an abuser seeks help to alter/control his behaviour, help should be available. However, this should be provided in association with, and not replace, appropriate punishment for the crime. Society must recognise the criminal nature of domestic violence and accord appropriate punitive sanctions to it. The general community must be encouraged to stop "minding its own business" and report/interfere/offer support/let their non-acceptance be known in local neighbourhoods.
Intervention orders have become an important legal instrument in the management of domestic violence. When an order is issued it should be accompanied by information about the availability of counselling. If an order is breached attendance at counselling should be compulsory, in addition to any punitive sanctions.
Consideration should be given to broadening the application of orders so that they protect from all abusers. Uniform legislation and co-operation in all states allows an order issued in one state to be valid and enforceable in other regardless of the jurisdiction under which it is issued.
The media irresponsibly over-represents violence in news coverage and entertainment. Children who have been desensitised by exposure to this have been shown to demonstrate increased levels of violence in their play. This effect is more marked in children from high risk backgrounds. It is not reasonable to expect children who have had violent behaviour role modelled to them frequently over a period of many years by adults and/or via television and videos, not to eventually reproduce that behaviour. For this reason strict controls must apply in children’s viewing times.
It is sometimes suggested that the solution to domestic violence lies in equality for women and particularly in ensuring that all women are economically independent and therefore strong i.e. in paid work. While in no way denying the importance of equality Women’s Action Alliance does not believe that economic independence is a universal panacea for domestic violence for two reasons:
The message society needs to send is that this does not make them less VALUABLE.
In conclusion, domestic violence will never be eliminated until: