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Domestic assault

The term domestic assault, also known as domestic violence, does not just refer to physical assault, but encompasses many forms of abuse—from physical, sexual and emotional, to financial and social—and it can occur between family members and partners, both current and former.

Submitted 11/10/2005 By Bridie Views 332679 Comments 13 Updated 11/26/2008

Photographer : Wade

The term domestic assault, also known as domestic violence, does not refer to just physical assault, but encompasses many forms of abuse that occur between family members and partners, both current and former. Because it can take many forms, it is sometimes hard to recognise, both from an outsider’s point of view, and from an insider’s. Both abusers and the abused often fail to recognise behaviour as abusive for a variety of reasons.

This may be because the abuse is not overt, or either partner may be making excuses for the behaviour: they may feel it is the victim’s fault, blame alcohol, the abusers promise they will change, blame life stress, believe it is a ‘private matter’, or do not classify financial or social control as abuse.

Abuse can cover:
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • psychological/Emotional abuse
  • social abuse
  • financial abuse.

Who does it affect?

Abusers and abused are men and women from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Domestic violence is more common among certain groups of people. Statistics show that women are far more likely to be abused, and men the abusers. Young women are more susceptible than older women, and people in rural and indigenous communities are more likely to be affected than those who are not.

Domestic violence in one area influences the level of domestic violence in other areas. If a woman experiences physical or sexual abuse, then she is more prone also to experience other forms of abuse, such as social, financial or psychological.

It is also important to recognise that domestic violence does not affect just the abused and the abuser, but can heavily impact on children in the family also. If there is domestic violence between parents, it is likely that the children also will be abused. And, children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to offend and let offences occur in their teenage and adult relationships.

Why does it still happen?

Why do people stay together and what drives people to do so?

Women who experience domestic assault often want to deal with it themselves, or talk with a friend, and often do not seek any professional intervention by police or support services. Men who are victims are often too ashamed to admit to being victims. Victims may believe that it is normal, that they are at fault, that they can change the perpetrator’s behaviour or that the abuse is only temporary. Victims may also fear that their perpetrator may become more violent if challenged or left. Women often feel that they will not be able to survive without their partners or that they may lose their children. Perpetrators may be reluctant to admit what they are doing is wrong, believing they have a right to their actions. They often believe that such behaviour is normal.

What systems are in place that let it continue?

Victims are often isolated by their perpetrators, which inhibits their physical and emotional contact with the world outside. This results in victims feeling as if they have no one to turn to. In addition, many women are not even aware of the resources available to them. In many circumstances, a victim’s particular social constraints, such as religious or cultural beliefs, also inhibit them. In many indigenous communities, there is a greater tolerance of domestic violence and a perception that it is a part of life. This results in victims feeling they have less power and less of a right to challenge their abuser or change their circumstances.

It is also important to note that abusive behaviour affects multiple aspects of a relationship. Other dynamics in the relationship between an abuser and the abused, such as love and a common history, are affected.

What’s the situation in Australia?

There are no accurate figures regarding the extent of domestic violence, as many victims, both men and women, are reluctant to report or get help for domestic assault. Some figures roughly estimate that around 20% of Australian women have experienced abuse. Due to under-reported incidents, this can be seen as a minimum only. Research suggests that women who experience either sexual or physical abuse are more likely also to experience other forms of abuse, such as emotional or financial.

The research however, suggests that the majority of victims of physical, sexual and financial abuse are women and most abusers are their partners. Statistics suggest that young women (18-24) with low socio-economic status are the most vulnerable. Other vulnerable groups include pregnant women and indigenous women.

Domestic violence is illegal and punishable under Australian law. While awaiting prosecution, victims can be protected by an Apprehended Violence Order, which places restrictions on the respondent; eg how far away they must stay from the aggrieved and anyone else named in the order, for example, children.

What’s going on overseas?

Domestic Violence is a global phenomenon, with varying rates of frequency and overt aggression. The varying forms of domestic assault are often the result of the level of social acceptability. Canada, for example has similar attitudes towards domestic assault and similar statistics of incidence as Australia. Countries such as Pakistan, however, report a much higher level of DV, with over half of women admitting to being beaten by their husbands. This is influenced by factors such as the practice of Honour Killings.

The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, defines Violence Against Women as:
"any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."

Thus international action against domestic assault is primarily directed towards combating assault against women.

How do I know this?

Amnesty International UK, Defining violence against women,

Australian Bureau of Statistics,

Carrington, K & Phillips, J 2003, Domestic violence in Australia—an overview of the issues,

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HelloKitty40000 27-Nov-2008

A huge portion of crimanls have been the victims of dommestic violence, and as such ANY country should try and stop it!



Rita 09-Jan-2008

It's definitely almost always the case... when someone is in an abusive relationship, they often can't see the problem; that it is simply unacceptable, and even if they do realise, there are other issues involved such as kids, no one to turn to- and therefore they are unlikely to remove themself. I have to say, it's fantastic that the Australian Government has addressed the issue through the media (through television ads).

If you're a friend of someone you know who is in an abusive relationship, if you can't help them yourself, it's important to turn to professional help. Some websites to provide more info on domestic assault/violence and where to get help are:

Domestic Violence Crisis Service:

Australian Federal Police:



Shelleyw 19-Jul-2007

While women are overwhelmingly the biggest victims of sexual assault and men are almost always the perpetrators, close to one in five reports of sexual assault are from men. What's more - research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies suggests that for every report of male rape - another ten go unreported. A study from the Australian Centre for Sexual Assault suggests that social progress is 40 years behind in the area of male rape. That's part of the reason why Sexual Assault Support Service in Hobart have just released a pamphlet to reach out to men who have been victims of sexual assault.

Listen to this story from Triple J's Hack here



jbmj007 26-May-2007

After my ex-partner was diagnosed with Bi Polar type 2, her reactions became worse over time as she never accepted the fact that she could have some kind of mental disorder. It came to a point where my ex-partner was physically abusing her own children as well as me 6 months after having been diagnosed and I started becoming more and more concerned about our 2yo son (as I thought that he would be next in line).

After a particularly violent episode towards me, I went to the NSW Police for advice and they took an AVO on my behalf. As soon as she was served with the paperwork, she suddenly changed for the better and made lots of promises about working on her behaviour. I took pity on her and asked the Police lawyer to drop the charges (despite the fact that the latter specifically advised me not to as she mentioned that it was just a question of time before my partner would slap me with an AVO).

Well it took 2 weeks for my ex to do it. She moved out of the house, took her children and our son and went to live elsewhere. To cut a long story short, I survived this round of AVO ... as well as 2 others spanning almost a year. The last one was thrown out of court with a cost order against the NSW Police. A year after access orders were established, a woman approached me and my now 4yo son in the local supermarket and asked me about the nature of the relationship I seemed to have with the little boy who was with me. Upon telling her that I was his father, she mentioned that I ought to know that she and her husband had been making a number of calls to DoCS about my ex partner abusing her children and that she could overheard almost 3 houses away by the neighboours on the street. I was sick to the stomach but managed to recompose myself and ask for a copy of any reports made about my son to DoCS under the FOI Act. Six weeks later, I received a letter telling me that the 248-page report which ought to have been sent to my attention had most of its pages withheld to protect the identity of the people who had made the calls. 248 pages!!!!!!

After much soul-searching and several sessions with counsellors, I initiated the process to take my son back a few days ago and am praying that the Family Law Court judge who will appear at the court hearing will "see the light" ...

Morale of my story:Protect your children at all costs and do whatever it takes for them; remember that in being complacent, you are automatically contributing to allowing the abuse to go on; Do not hesitate to ask for help to the various organisations out there (eg, LegalAid, Law Access, Family Relationship Helpline, Organisation for Women, etc) Expect to go through a roller-coaster of emotions but remember that you will always come out of the tunnel one day; my grandfather (he was a fisherman who took his small boat several kilometres off the coast to fish every day and who yet never knew how to swim despit ebeing caught in storms out in the open sea!) told me that "even after the darkest of nights or the fiercest of storms, the sun will eventually always come out ... so hang in there, no matter what"; Take care of yourself as your children need you more than any other person of this planet as an equal parent.

And as for Premier Morris Iemma posting a shame list and various womens' groups being concerned about privacy, I say that the list should only contain the names of those people - men AND women - who have been convicted in a court of law of violence of ANY kind. That way, as the court hearing exchange is normally public information anyway, the names of convicted people would appear on the shame web site by default. This would act as a major deterrent for most offenders out there and their names would not appear as a result of being dobbed in but rather after being convicted.



Artenor 18-May-2007

Funnel web makes a good point