Domestic Violence And Abuse In Australia

.. ith many others. However, in complete contrast to such beliefs that domestic violence occurs mainly in lower socioeconomic groups, data collected by the Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce (1991) indicates that family violence is prevalent throughout all class boundaries. Spouse abuse occurs throughout all aspects of society. However, as shown in Figure 1, it rates around two times higher among families where the male partner is unskilled (and thus more likely to be unemployed) relative to families where the male partner is skilled or trained in a particular field (and therefore more likely employed).

These statistics are unlikely to have improved with an increase in unemployment over the last fifteen years (O’Donnell and Craney 1982). It is evident that a complete and sound understanding of domestic violence would rely on explanations which place responsibility for the violence with external factors such as stress and alcohol. The excessive use of alcohol is often linked to domestic violence as indicated by Figure 2 where in 48% of abuse cases, alcohol was a predominant factor, (Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force booklet, 1988). Although society may believe that alcohol is a possible cause of domestic violence, the Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce (1991) maintain that it is more of a contributing rather than a causative factor of family violence. In addition, Larouche (1986) maintains that although alcohol may lower both awareness and self-control, a person who uses it is responsible both for drinking and for their behaviour.

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Somewhat contrary to other studies, Van Hasselt (1988) maintained that occupational status rather than employment status seems to be a significant stimulus to violence where women of higher socioeconomic status than their partners are at a higher risk of being victims of domestic abuse. It is still commonplace (although rather old-fashioned) in our society for men to see themselves as the ‘breadwinners’ whereas women are not expected to be so success-orientated, but rather are expected to look to men for economic support. When men think of themselves as providers for their family but see that they are no longer in a position to perform this duty as their wives are of higher occupational status, abusive men tend to experience intense feelings of insecurity and a deep sense of failure. Thus, men who cannot cope with this particular type of failure are most susceptible to violent behaviour. (O’Donnell and Craney 1982) The Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce (1991) indicates that other factors related to inferiority and superiority such as levels of intelligence or education have also been linked to domestic violence.

For example, the level of one’s education is a component of socioeconomic status which greatly influences the risk of domestic violence within a family. According to Steinmetz and Strauss (1974), female abuse is recorded as highest among men who have not achieved a great deal academically. This reasoning explains why domestic violence is more prominent in the poorer sectors of our community where members of society are generally less educated. Steinmetz and Strauss (1974) also suggest that men in the violent group are often less educated than their wives and so by abusing their partner, these male aggressors may feel that they are able to compensate for their low academic status by maintaining their supremacy at home. A study conducted by Steinmetz and Strauss (1974) establishes that full time employment of the male partner is related to lower rates of spouse abuse, and that higher rates of spouse abuse are associated with women having more education and/or higher occupational status than their male partners.

Thus, it seems that a relationship exists between lower socioeconomic status and a greater tendency to domestic violence. Such a relationship can be interpreted into terms of frustration, low self-esteem or oppression. Consequently, it seems imperative that a community education and awareness program be targeted at the more socioeconomically deprived groups in the community with the primary objective of increasing society’s overall awareness of domestic violence and the drastic and quite permanent effects it can have on the abused. Additionally, it is essential that those community members of higher socioeconomic status be involved in such an education program, for it is evident that domestic violence also presides in the many of the homes of these theoretically less susceptible social groups. However, it is important that community education on domestic violence should not be considered a substitute for legal action against serious offenders. The effects of domestic violence on the individual are quite severe and traumatic.

Reported cases have suggested numerous forms of abuse ranging from the more common forms of physical abuse to psychological and emotional abuse. There are even some cases that involve various forms of sexual abuse. Although vastly different, all forms of domestic abuse leave the victim permanently scarred. It is apparent that even in cases that involve physical abuse, the wounds may heal although the emotional damage can never be repaired. O’Donnell and Craney (1982) suggest that as a result of having been a victim of domestic violence, many people will spend the rest of their lives in fear of the opposite sex. Aside from simple fear, there are many other emotional scars that the perpetrator inflicts upon the victim such as a permanently low self-esteem and possibly, the belief that they are insane (Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce 1991).

All families and relationships have their problems, although violence should never be regarded as a solution. It is no longer tolerated in the workplace, nor is it tolerated in the schoolyard. Why, therefore, should it be tolerated in the home where all should be striving towards building a safe, caring, loving and happy environment? References Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs booklet (1995). Family and Community Services (FACS) booklet (1995). Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce (1991): FAMILY VIOLENCE: EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS, SOMEBODY’S LIFE, Sydney, Federation Press.

Healey K (1993): A VIOLENT SOCIETY?, N.S.W. Spinney Press. Larouche G (1986): A GUIDE TO INTERVENTION WITH BATTERED WOMEN McCue M L (1995): DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, California, USA, ABC-CLIO Inc. O’Donnell C and Craney J (1982): FAMILY VIOLENCE IN AUSTRALIA, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire. Report of the Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force (1988): Beyond These Walls.

Steinmetz S and Strauss M (1974): VIOLENCE IN THE FAMILY, New York, USA, Harper and Rowe Publishers. Van Hasselt V B (1988): HANDBOOK OF FAMILY VIOLENCE, New York, USA, Plenum Press.