Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) is what happens when one person in a relationship exerts power over the other person, be it a spouse, a partner, a sibling, parent, child, relative or flatmate, etc.
Coercive compelling of others in intimate or family relationships is FDV, as is the exposure of children to that kind of behaviour (as stated by the Family Court of Australia); one in four Australian children have been exposed to FDV.
That kind of abuse of power, often enforced by physical and verbal intimidation, has a damaging impact that’s expressed in numerous ways. In its most extreme manifestation, FDV means people die.
At the time of writing (17 November), 42 women had died by violent means in Australia. Last year, 73 Australian women died violently. 1 In 2015, 158 people died of FDV-related homicides in Australia; that was a third of the nation’s homicides. Of those FDV-related homicide victims, two-thirds (65%) were women. 2
FDV is an incredibly volatile reality in our society, and we have only recently begun to discuss it openly. Even so, with the stigma and general (and sometimes cultural) reluctance to discuss – or even acknowledge – that it occurs, it is still extremely difficult to quantify who has done what to whom.
What is generally accepted is the reality of physical violence (experienced by one in three Australian women), emotional violence (the statistic is one in every four women), and sexual violence and stalking (both kinds of incidents have happened to one in every five Australian women over 18).
In terms of FDV from a spouse or partner, a factchecking exercise of national FDV data last year, by the ABC, showed that ‘one in six women and one in 20 men [reported] at least one incidence of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15.’ 3
FDV can and does happen in diverse relationships, across generations (including elder abuse) and class, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation boundaries; it includes ‘violence against men by their female partners and violence within same-sex relationships’.
It impacts every strata of Australian society; every community, religion, class, occupation, ethnicity, age, gender and sexual orientation.
The vast majority of instances occur, however, when a man exercises power over a woman, through overt actions and neglect of another person’s human rights. FDV is a gendered issue on the whole. That is a brutal and undeniable truth. 4
The controlling behaviour of FDV is expressed in different ways. 5
FDV is emotional abuse; the FDV survivor becomes the scapegoat for all of a relationship’s woes, and is consequently sworn at and put down, privately and publicly. FDV is humiliating survivors, criticising their body image, intelligence, sexuality, abilities or personality, etc.
FDV is isolating people from those whom they love, restricting their capacity to travel, or interact, or worship, or communicate with others. It’s not letting them seek or sustain, or limiting, employment, friendships or relationships. FDV is physically starving people, or taking their wages. Controlling their spending. Destroying survivors’ property, threatening or harming dependents and pets; driving dangerously to terrorise them.
FDV is forcing someone to practise or abandon a religious faith or creed. Using an interpretation of a religious faith to justify and rationalise abusive behaviours.
FDV survivors are belittled. Put downs and mocked; abusers seek to diminish their self-esteem and courage, and limit any available means of support they may receive.
Physically, FDV survivors are struck, pushed, stood over and manhandled. They are hit with objects, to hurt and intimidate. FDV is assaulting and threatening kids, locking survivors inside or outside of homes; refusing them food or water or sleep.
FDV is demanding someone performs sexual acts, or pressuring that person to engage in unwanted sexual intimacy; it is degrading them, and inflicting pain. It is not allowing someone to use contraception, or refusing to allow them to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.
At its heart, Family and Domestic Violence is cruelty and selfishness; anger and fear dressed up as love. Spite masquerading as concern.
The time for ignoring, denying or condoning FDV is long past. Barry Gittins
If you are disturbed at how you are being treated by a loved one or family member, please seek help from 1800RESPECT, Australia’s national sexual assault domestic family violence counselling service, https://www.1800respect.org.au/, ph. 1800 737 732.
5 ibid; the copy that follows draws from the same resource previously cited.