Family Violence is about Power and Control
Family Violence is more than just physical
One of the big myths about family violence is the idea that if there is no physical violence, then family violence is not occurring. This overlooks the root cause of family violence, which is “Power and Control”. This is where one partner (usually the male but not always), uses a variety of methods to ensure they are in complete control of the relationship and their partner is subservient to them and to their wishes (demands).
Several years ago, a friend of my wife and her partner came over for dinner. The friend circled the table a couple of times before her partner finally directed her where she should sit. This was so out of character for a woman who was confident and self assured and normally made her own decisions. This was an example of a red flag that provides the warning signs of a vulnerable relationship and increasing demonstration of power and control.
Power and control appears in many forms, and in addition to the obvious physical abuse, we see examples of this through:
• Verbal Abuse
• Emotional Abuse
• Social Abuse
• Financial Abuse
• Spiritual Abuse
• Image based abuse
• Sexual Abuse
All of these are used to take away a person’s independence, confidence and self-esteem and maintain power and control in the relationship.
Not so long ago, I was talking to a couple about the various forms of family violence and just happened to highlight financial abuse and how couples should both be involved in the discussions around money. Suddenly the conversation went very quiet and looks were exchanged. The man then got very defensive and said, “well I need to run the business”. It was plain that financial control was a problem. After I left them, that couple then had a very long conversation about each having an equal say in how their finances are managed and through that conversation took the first steps to a positive change in that relationship. Speaking out can make a difference.
Unfortunately, not all relationships can talk about and address these issues when they occur. Story after story tell of how one partner (usually the man) treats their partner as somehow inferior, stupid and incapable of making decisions without his help. In a process of undermining and disempowerment, the partner is eventually left feeling completely incapable of making an independent decision and feeling so worthless that they cannot conceive of leaving the relationship because they “need him”. Any attempt to resist or disobey or not meet the partner’s expectations results in further demeaning words or physical abuse.
Where the victim in these circumstances finds it within themselves to attempt to escape, the threat of physical violence and fear for themselves and their children often paralyses them, leaving them trapped. If they do leave, sadly we see in the statistics, the last actions of the power and control scenario is to inflict serious injury and even death.
I am sure there are men reading this who say, “Nah, not me mate.” And that is true of the many good men in our community who know what love is and how live in a respectful relationship based on an equal partnership. Unfortunately, there are many men who see women as inferior, sex objects, there to be the servant for the man and ultimately to be controlled by the man.
So, what can we do about this?
First, we all need to be able to take a “love check”. Are we acting out of love in our relationship? We often hear these words at weddings on how a healthy, loving relationship should function. I quote a part “love is kind.”
Being kind means listening to your partner, respecting their ideas and contribution to the relationship. Being kind means not putting them down just to make yourself “bigger”. Being kind looks for ways to encourage your partner to achieve the very best she can in whatever she seeks to do. Being kind does not demand the partner cook and clean and be at your beck and call. I am sure you can find other examples of “kindness failures”.
Secondly, be a role model and example to your children, especially your sons. Sadly, family violence is most often a learned behaviour. Boys grow up to imitate the sins of the father. But if you are good father, one who knows what loves is and how to treat their partner properly. What a positive influence that would be on them as they grow up.
Thirdly, if you see someone acting badly to their partner, “Stand Up, Speak Out and Act” and challenge the behaviour. There is an old saying that says: “the evil you walk by is the evil you condone”.
The time for silence is over. The time of courage is here. The time to call our bad behaviour is here, no matter whether it is your best friend, your brother or your father. If you witness a violent act, don’t hesitate, ring the Police on 000. Family violence is a crime.
Learn more about the other types of abuse that some men use against women.
What is violence against women?
If you are experiencing family violence you can get assistance by contacting 1800RESPECT. https://www.1800respect.org.au/
If you are a man and want to change, contact Relationships Australia on (03) 5820 7444 or find online support at No to Violence https://www.ntv.org.au/