Understanding Domestic 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.


The cycle of violence

Abusive relationships can move through cycles of abuse that include periods of tension and calm. This can make it difficult to leave an abusive relationship. It can be incredibly helpful and even life-changing when either a person in the relationship, or a person outside of the relationship can recognise the cycle of violence.

The theory that domestic violence occurs in a cycle was first developed in 1979 by psychologist Lenore Walker and has since been used and adapted all over the world. The cycle of violence is used to understand abusive relationships, it can help explain why a person stays in an abusive relationship, why an abuser seems to dramatically change their personality and it can also provide clues to when it is the safest time to get help and leave.

The cycle of violence goes through many stages, and many survivors of violence can relate to it, however it is important to note that the experience of violence is not the same for everyone and there is no telling how long each phase will last for: it could be moments, days, months or years. The cycle tends to get quicker over time and often the pursuit phase or the pleasant phase can be skipped.


For more information on domestic abuse in LGBTIQ people’s relationships go to Understanding the Differences.