Published: 25 September 2019
Author: Ashleigh Kemp

No one is to blame for family violence except the perpetrator

Ryan Carlisle Thomas (RCT) joins the Law Council and others voicing concerns regarding comments made by One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts over the weekend. The comments appear to blame victims and courts for family violence, amid the recent announcement of an Inquiry into the Family Court.

RCT has long been a strong advocate for victims of family violence. Like others who have worked within the Family Law system and with survivors of family violence, we know that the only person to blame for family violence is the perpetrator.

Recent commentary that appears to suggest victims of family violence are making false reports to gain an advantage in family law cases are misguided, as well as being a slap in the face to survivors and those that have campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of family violence.

Family violence is a very complex space to navigate which is why those fleeing domestic violence often rely upon the police, a lawyer, a counsellor and sometimes a shelter to survive the experience.

The domestic violence statistics are alarming

Domestic violence in Australia has reached epidemic proportions.

An article in The Age on 5 September 2019 titled ‘Domestic violence still at unprecedented levels despite hundreds of millions being spent’ highlights the statistics as follows.

  • Today police in Australia will deal with on average 445 domestic violence matters
  • One in 6 women has experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15
  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner
  • In 2014-15, Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence as non-Indigenous women.

We must debunk the myths

Our family law team is on the frontline of family violence, and as such we are in a good position to debunk the myths and clarify it with truth.

In 2004, The Lookout revealed the most common myths around domestic violence and it appears that 15 years later we don’t seem to have made much more progress. The Lookout was developed by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) and Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) with funding from the Victorian Government as part of its commitment to addressing violence against women and children.

Myth
Truth

Violence affects few women in Australia

High numbers of women experience violence in Australia.

Domestic and family violence happens only to poor, uneducated women and women from certain cultures

People of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status and age can be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. Because women with money usually have more access to resources, poorer women tend to use community agencies and are therefore more visible.

Some people deserve to be abused; are responsible for the violence or they provoke it

No one deserves to be abused. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser. Abusers tend to blame the victim for their behaviour, and friends and family often hear only their perspective.

If the victim didn’t like it, she would leave

There are many reasons why a woman may not leave, including fear for herself, her children and even pets. Often women face significant practical barriers to separating from their partners, including a lack of money and housing options. Due to the effects of the abuse, many women lack confidence in their own abilities and accurate information about their options. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is okay or that the victim wants to be abused. The most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave.

Most people who commit violence are under the effects of alcohol or drugs

Although many abusive partners also abuse alcohol and/or drugs, and some are more likely to be physically violent or use more extreme violence when their judgement is impaired, this is not the underlying cause of the abuse. Many people who abuse alcohol or drugs are not violent and abusive.

Abusers are mentally ill, psychopathic or have a personality disorder

Research does not support this view. Most men who use violence against family members demonstrate acceptable behaviour in other settings. Many are considered respectable members of the community, and other people are often reluctant to believe they could be abusive.

Stress and anger lead to violence

Violent behaviour is a choice. Perpetrators use it to control and dominate their victims, and their actions are very deliberate. Usually, perpetrators of domestic and family violence are never violent outside the home or in public, even when under stress.

Seek help today

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, there is help available.

Family Violence Support Services (24 hours a day)

  • Call 000 for immediate emergency assistance 
  • For assistance with safety planning and crisis housing, call SafeSteps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188 
  • For counselling services, call 1800RESPECT National Sexual Assault Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Service, or; 
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Family Violence Legal Advice (Monday to Friday)

For legal assistance, call our experienced Family and Relationship lawyers on 1800 641 743 or visit our Family and Relationship Law page for more information.

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