Domestic and family violence affects both men and women, and children who are witness to an abusive relationship.
There are many misconceptions surrounding domestic violence. Sometimes these misconceptions are used to justify unacceptable behaviour. Other times they are the result of confusion or a misunderstanding of the law.
By answering these common questions, we hope it helps you spot the early signs of domestic violence, respond accordingly if you (or someone you know) is in an abusive relationship, and seek expert legal advice.
If you’re in danger, call 000 for immediate police assistance.
To book an appointment with a qualified and experienced solicitor in Western Sydney, contact McDonnell Schroder.
1. What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of controlling and coercive behaviour in the form of physical, verbal, psychological, sexual, or financial abuse designed to exert unequal power and control over another person.
Common examples of domestic violence include physical abuse, threats, rape, intimidation, harassment, humiliation, withholding finances, isolation, and unreasonable criticism, to name a few.
Victims of domestic violence typically suffer from reduced self-esteem and confidence along with feelings of insecurity, fear for their safety, loneliness, and helplessness. These combined factors often make it difficult for victims to simply leave an abusive relationship.
2. Are drugs and alcohol a reasonable excuse?
No. While the use of drugs and alcohol may intensify the severity of the abuse, it is not a good reason to justify the abuse in the first place. This assumption implies that anyone who takes drugs or alcohol is more likely to commit domestic violence. However, this is simply not the case. It’s an excuse that people use to not take responsibility for their actions.
In addition to this, people can still abuse a loved even if they stop taking drugs and alcohol.
3. Why don’t victims of domestic abuse just leave?
There are many good reasons why. Victims may be:
- Afraid of what may happen if they leave the relationship
- Under the impression the abuse is normal (i.e. they’re not actually hitting me, so it’s not abuse)
- Concerned for their children’s safety and wellbeing
- Embarrassed of what their family and friends might think
- Still in love with their abuser, and wish for only the violence to stop – not the relationship
- Pressured to stay in the relationship based on cultural and/or religious beliefs
- Financially dependent on their abuser
- Physically unable to leave due to a disability
Any one or more of the above reasons can make it hard for victims of domestic violence to leave. While it may seem a simple process, these decisions are often complicated by these fears and troubling circumstances.
4. Are only women the victim of domestic violence?
Women are statistically more likely to be a victim of domestic and family violence. However, through a combination of increased research and social awareness, reports of domestic violence towards men have increased over the years. It’s important to remember that domestic violence can occur irrespective of age or gender, and as a result, we must recognise the magnitude and severity of these circumstances regardless of its victims.
5. How can a family violence lawyer help?
Family violence lawyers can assist victims and accused perpetrators in many ways.
For victims, a lawyer can help them apply for an Intervention Violence Order (IVO), which are designed to prohibit the respondent from violent and abusive behaviour so as to protect the victim. Lawyers can also help the victim understand their legal obligations and take the necessary steps to achieve their desired outcome.
If an accused perpetrator wishes to object to an IVO made against them, the courts can adjourn the matter for a contested hearing at a later date. A lawyer can then prepare a brief and appear on their behalf to defend the allegations. Regardless of your circumstances, these qualified professionals can provide the expert, tailored advice and assistance to help your situation.
6. What are the early warning signs of a potential abuser?
There’s isn’t always a clear-cut way to spot an abuser, especially during the early stages of a new relationship. Some people can also develop abusive traits well into a long-term relationship, making it hard to anticipate their change in behaviour.
Despite this, there are subtle warning signs which may indicate a potential abuser. They might:
- Come across as very charming and suave to begin with
- Want to move the relationship along quicker than you anticipated
- Be extremely jealous and controlling
- Say one thing but their actions don’t match up
- Blame others for something they have done wrong
- Try to control where you go, who you spend time with, and for how long
7. Can abusers change their behaviour?
In some cases, yes. But the abuser must want to make that change, and take the appropriate steps to change their behaviour for good. Mediation and therapy are two of the most effective ways for someone to change their behaviour patterns. However, these methods require a serious long-term commitment over several months, possibly even years. For this reason, there’s no guarantee such treatment will always work.
Got any more questions regarding domestic and family violence? Book a consultation with McDonnell Schroder today.