Kym Marsden’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
Content warning: This article contains reference to child domestic and family violence. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.
The Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria defines domestic violence (DV) as “a pattern of abusive behaviour through which a person seeks control and dominates another person”.
DV doesn’t discriminate across race, sexuality or age and has far reaching effects which impact both men and women in our community. DV perpetrators try to control and gain power over their partner through employing tactics such as fear, threats, manipulation and other controlling behaviours. Keep in mind that not all perpetrators will demonstrate these behaviours early on in a relationship, but if they do it can often be incredibly difficult to detect as they are master manipulators and incredibly adept at their craft.
DV exists in many forms including emotional, physical, sexual, verbal, social or financial abuse. Perpetrators often minimise their abuse and the impacts it has on their partners in an attempt to justify their behaviour, due to their own low self-worth and feelings of inadequacy, blaming their abusive actions on their partner.
Frequently as a relationship develops and becomes more established, it’s likely that the perpetrator will ramp up their abuse and often there is an emergence of the below behaviours:
- Jealousy – justified by ‘If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t get jealous?’ . Over time, jealousy will result in controlling behaviours such as, but not limited to, monitoring your phone or social media, disrupting your social engagements with certain people and/or controlling what you wear, where you go, etc.
- Name-calling and put downs – these will start to occur more frequently and will intensify with the goal to humiliate, dominate and rob the victim of their self-worth, as well as isolate them from their social circles to achieve complete dominance
- Physical intimidation – slamming doors or items in the house is common if they don’t get their way or to make a point. It often escalates into breaking or damaging their partner’s property, personal or household items and deflects blame for their poor behavior onto their partner
- Financial control – withholding money to create a co-dependency and isolation from social circles to dominate
- Physical abuse – this usually starts as a push, slap or tug which they will rationalise as an accident that will never happen again and/or assign blame to the victim to condition them to further assaults which escalate over time.
Increasing your safety is incredibly important as abusive situations and risk factors that result in violent outbursts often change rapidly. I strongly recommend you create a personal safety plan, which you revise regularly. Each of us has the right to feel safe and this plan will allow you to respond proactively and rapidly to seek the relevant help in your time of need.
Resource-wise, PHN South Western Sydney has created a ‘patient factsheet’ which can be found and accessed here. It provides practical considerations for when your safety is threatened, including several helplines and online resources.
Sadly, there is no quick fix or easy solution to eradicating DV across our communities, but I am hopeful that together we can work towards making this a reality through giving a voice to those who suffer in silence, as well as strong education and advocacy.
To conclude, I want to leave you with some thought-provoking words by award-winning PTSD/trauma blogger, Michelle Rosenthal, who advises us: “Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose!”
If you are experiencing family or domestic violence, please contact:
- Domestic Violence Line NSW – 1800 656 463
- National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence counselling service – 1800 RESPECT
- Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
Visit respect.gov.au for more information and to download free resources.
By Kym Marsden
Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.