What is domestic and family violence?

“Threatening a current or former partner isn’t passion, or love, or heartache. It’s violence, it’s abuse and it’s a crime.” – Miya Yamanouchi

Domestic and family violence (DFV) is any type of abusive behaviour used to gain and maintain control over an intimate partner, ex-partner, family member (including chosen family), carer or member of the same household.

Abuse can occur in relationships without it being a pattern of power and control, for example both partners may at times have nasty fights, but if the fights come from a place of equality and both people play a mutual part in it then it is not domestic violence though they may need to work on their communication and conflict skills. There needs to exist a pattern of one person’s control over the other that separates domestic and family abuse from other types of conflict.

Poor anger management, substance abuse and mental health issues can contribute to the frequency and severity of abuse in relationships, but it is not an excuse or a reason for domestic and family violence.

Underlying causes in DFV are no doubt complex, however they reflect societies deeply entrenched views about gender, sexuality, masculinity, power and relationships.

Making the Invisible Visible.

National invisibility: Arguably the existence of abuse in relationships involving LGBTIQ people remains largely invisible. This invisibility is the result of limited research, little to no media attention and the larger national discussions around domestic violence focussing on gendered explanations of (cis) men’s violence toward (cis) women. This invisibility has resulted in less adequate support services that are well prepared and equipped to recognise and deal with domestic violence in our communities.

Invisibility within our communities: Domestic violence is not a topic that is easy to discuss in any community, it is even harder for minority communities, like ours, to publicly acknowledge the abuse that goes on. One reason that our communities may have for not wanting to ‘come out’ about abusive relationships is a fear that it detracts from positive images of LGBTIQ relationships which may hinder efforts to achieve legal recognition and reinforces homophobic and transphobic abuse. Or a fear that speaking about LGBTIQ perpetrators will add to the existing pathologisation of LGBTIQ people. Often communities find it hard to believe, or don’t want to believe that the person they like or admire is being abused or is abusing another person and so they ignore the warning signs or make excuses for them.

Invisibility within our relationships: There are many reasons why people struggle to identify and name abuse in their own relationships. Abusers are great manipulators and can make the person they abuse believe that the abuse they suffer is their own fault. Often the abusers truly believe that it is their partner that “makes them do it”. An abuser is good at passing on the blame. Often people who experience abuse prefer to focus on the hope and love they have for their partner, rather than on the pressure and fear they feel around them. Abusers are normal people in every other way; they may be charming, well respected and successful. This invisibility within the relationship means it is harder for the people involved to get help and easier for the abuser to continue the abuse.

Types of abuse: Domestic and family violence can take many forms. Not all abusive relationships include physical violence. But all abusive relationships include some elements of psychological and emotional abuse.

Click below to see the ‘cycle of violence’ wheel (left) and the ‘power and control’ wheel (right). Both diagrams have been adapted by ACON with the intention of explaining relationship abuse within the context of LGBTIQ relationships.