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Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is when one person in a present or past relationship uses violence or abuse to cause fear and get control over the other person. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical violence, sexual violence, psychological and emotional abuse, social abuse and or financial abuse1

Physical abuse
This can include hitting, punching, slapping, biting, kicking, pulling hair, inflicting burns or other injuries, being threatened with weapons.

Psychological and emotional abuse
Being told repeatedly that you are a bad mother, ugly, fat, dumb, stupid, useless etc. Having your self esteem and confidence eroded, and living in constant fear of physical abuse are all forms of psychological and emotional abuse. Threats of violence to yourself, people you care, pets or prized possessions is also emotional abuse.

Financial abuse
Financial abuse may involve not being allowed to work or having to give all your money to your partner. Having to account for every cent that is spent or being given an unreasonable amount of money to buy groceries and keep the household functioning is financial abuse.

Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse includes any sexual act to which someone does not freely and knowingly give consent. See also Child Abuse.

Social abuse
Being locked inside the house, not allowed phone calls or mail, isolation from friends and family, being forced to move to distant places, denial of money for public transport, abusing your friends and family till they no longer visit you are all types of social abuse.

Harassment and stalking
If someone is constantly following or watching you, texting, emailing or calling you on the phone, they are being abusive.

All forms of domestic violence are unacceptable and many forms are against the law.

Cycle of Violence
Domestic violence tends to follow a cycle as identified in 1979 by Lenore Walker. Whilst everyone’s experience is different, general patterns can be found which often increase in intensity and frequency over time.2

The buildup phase is when tension begins to build and abusive behaviours begin to increase.

The stand over phase is often described as “walking on egg shells” as it seems as though they can do nothing right to appease the abuser. The explosion is only a matter of time. Sometimes family members may do something to provoke the abuser in order to “get it over with” as the waiting and the tension can seem unbearable.

The explosion phase is the release of tension, where things are frightening and often unpredictable. Things tend to get worse over time as the graph below illustrates.

The remorse phase comes after the explosion where the abuser may feel ashamed and withdraw. Sometimes they will deny or minimise what has happened, blaming the victim or others for the violence.

The pursuit phase is characterised by promises to change, and positive attention.

The honeymoon phase describes itself, a time where things are seemingly good in the relationship and both parties want to forget about the abuse. This is often the part that keeps women invested in the relationship. They love their partners when they are in this stage, this is the dream, but unfortunately this is only a part in a bigger cycle. Initially they may be able to put up with the occasional ‘explosion’, but over time the bad begins to far outweigh the good times, and the bad times can become life threatening.

Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
A child may experience domestic violence on a number of levels:

  • As direct victims of physical abuse or serious neglect
  • As "indirect" victims of physical injury. A child may be hurt when attempting to protect their parent, or because they happen to get in "the line of fire". Infants can be hurt if they are being held by their parent when the abuse is occurring.
  • As victims of emotional and pshycological trauma when living in a home characterised by fear, cruelty and violence.

Often couples stay together ‘because of the children’, or because ‘the children need their father’ however children are greatly affected by living in domestic violence. What they need is safety, security and consistency. If children continue to be exposed to domestic violence, they can be affected in the following ways:

  • Low self esteem
  • Poor conflict resolution skills
  • Repressed feelings of fear, anger, guilt and confusion
  • Adjustment problems, fewer interests, fewer social activities
  • Increased levels of anxiety
  • Stress related physical ailments
  • Increased internalised problems such as depression
  • Decreased cognitive abilities
  • Poor school performance
  • Decreased empathy
  • Poor social skills
  • Running away from home
  • Excessive cruelty to animals
  • Aggressive language and behaviour
  • Higher risk of developing alcohol or drug abuse and juvenile delinquency

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