The causes of domestic violence include deeply held beliefs about masculinity. Men who abuse members of their family also tend to blame other people, alcohol or circumstances for their violent outbursts.
Domestic violence is an under-reported crime, so it is difficult for agencies to keep accurate statistics. However, the perpetrators of this crime are usually men and the victims are usually women and children. Researchers believe that around one in four Australian women will experience domestic violence at some time in their life.
Although domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status or their racial and cultural background, women who are young, Indigenous, have a disability, or who live in rural areas are at greater risk.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ perpetrator of domestic violence. However, researchers have found that men who abuse family members often:
- Use violence and emotional abuse to control their families.
- Believe that they have the right to behave in whatever way they choose while in their own home.
- Think that a ‘real’ man should be tough, powerful and the head of the household. They may believe that they should make most of the decisions, including about how money is spent.
- Believe that men are entitled to sex from their partners.
- Don’t take responsibility for their behaviour and prefer to think that loved ones or circumstances provoked their behaviour.
- Make excuses for their violence: for example, they will blame alcohol or stress.
- Report ‘losing control’ when angry around their families, but can control their anger around other people. They don’t tend to use violence in other situations: for example, around friends, bosses, work colleagues or the police.
- Try to minimise, blame others for, justify or deny their use of violence, or the impact of their violence towards women and children.
The alcohol myth
It is commonly assumed that domestic violence is caused by alcohol abuse. This isn’t true. The perpetrator is sober in about half of domestic violence cases where the police are called. Also, not all alcoholics or binge drinkers resort to violence when angered or frustrated.
It is how the perpetrator sees himself and his rights that lead to the violence. If a man abuses his family and also tends to have difficulty with controlling his alcohol consumption, he needs to recognise that he has two separate problems.
Men resist seeking help
Research suggests that while some men who are violent may think about getting help, the majority of them don’t. Some of the reasons men do not seek out help include:
- Acceptance of violence – a man who thinks that he is entitled to dominate family members, and that it is okay to solve problems with violence, may not believe that he needs help. He may blame the victim for ‘provoking’ his behaviour.
- Notions of masculinity – the idea of what it means to be a man, for many men, includes silence and strength. A man may avoid seeking help because he doesn’t want to look ‘weak’ or feminine.
- Ignorance – about half of the men who get help or counselling for their violent behaviour report that they had tried unsuccessfully in the past to find help but didn’t know where to go.
- Fear – most men who don’t seek help report that feeling ashamed stops them from seeking help.
Regular counselling with a trained counsellor can help men who use violence towards family members to understand and change their behaviour. Counselling and behaviour-change programs focus on examining and addressing the man’s deeply held beliefs about violence, masculinity, control of others, the impact of their use of violence towards others, self-control and responsibility for one’s actions.
The man is encouraged to examine his motivations for the violence and is taught practical strategies, including:
- Learning that violence and abuse is not caused by anger, but the desire to hurt or dominate others
- Learning how violent behaviour damages his relationship with his partner and children, and how he can behave in more respectful ways
- Self-talk and time out – the man is taught how to recognise individual signs of anger, and how to use strategies like self-talk and time out. A man can use self-talk messages, such as ‘Anger will not solve this problem’, to remind himself to remain calm. A trained counsellor can help a man find his own effective self-talk messages. Time out means walking away from the situation until the man feels calmer. Time out must be discussed with the man’s partner so that both parties understand how and why to use it. However, time out is not an avoidance technique and the man must try and work out the problem at a later opportunity.
It will take time
Women and children who live with violent men live in a constant state of anxiety and fear. A man who is undergoing counselling for his violent behaviour needs to recognise that regaining the trust of his family, and the behaviour-change process, will take time. He also needs to accept that his partner has a right to end the relationship if she wishes.
Where to get help
In an emergency:
- Call the police in an emergency. Dial triple zero. Tel. 000
- Men’s Referral Service Tel. (03) 9428 2899 or 1800 065 973 (free call within Victoria) – a confidential and anonymous telephone service for men who want to stop their violent or abusive behaviour towards family members, 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday
- Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service (WDVCS) is the Victorian statewide service for women experiencing violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner, another family member or someone else close to them. Crisis Line Tel. (03) 9322 3555 or 1800 015 188 (24 hours)
- To find out about local support services, contact the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria Tel. (03) 9486 9866 - 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
- National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service (Australia) Tel. 1800 737 732 – free telephone counselling hotline (24 hours, 7 days)
- 1800RESPECT – for real-time online counselling
Things to remember
- The causes of domestic violence include deeply held beliefs about masculinity.
- Men who abuse loved ones tend to blame other people, alcohol or circumstances for their violent outbursts.
- Men often minimise, blame others, justify or deny their use of violence or the impact of their violence towards women and children.
- A man who is undergoing counselling for his violent behaviour needs to recognise that regaining the trust of his family will take time, and that his partner has the right to end the relationship if she chooses to.
You might also be interested in:
- Domestic violence - services for women.
- Domestic violence - tips for children.
- Domestic violence - tips for women with disabilities.
- Domestic violence and children.
- Domestic violence and women with disabilities.
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
(Logo links to further information)
Domestic Violence Resource Centre
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: February 2012
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