Domestic Violence – have we Normalised this Abuse?

Why is it that when we hear the words domestic violence, people often look the other way or feel very uncomfortable? It’s as if we don’t really want to know that it exists and think if we talk in hushed tones, others won’t overhear what we are saying.

In the media and throughout the community it is not given enough airtime or is toned down considerably. In fact, it is now called ‘domestic violence,’ when in reality is it simply an extreme form of abuse.

The statistics for domestic violence in Australia are shocking to say the least and expose just what really goes on behind closed doors in our ‘lucky country.’ These statistics don’t include the many incidences that go unreported.

When one woman is killed in Australia every week by a current or former partner (1), it is not an exaggeration to say domestic violence is a serious issue that needs addressing. Even if ‘only’ one woman was killed per year, it should be enough to send alarm bells throughout the community and the media.

The more serious cases might be reported, but equally harming are the cases that are not reported and accepted as ‘normal’ or diminished in everyday society due to the woman feeling that they don’t have the strength to report such incidences from lack of self-worth or fears for their own life.

There are so many women who are living on eggshells, tip-toeing around their partner like prisoners in their own homes, feeling powerless and anxious about how to leave their situation without further abuse, and at times simply doing everything possible to survive.

Our governments and politicians work tirelessly to ensure that our borders and country remain safe and protected from any terrorist threat or attack. Yet that same focus and commitment does not secure the gates and picket fences of suburbia. The fact is, Australians are more at risk from domestic violence than they ever would be from a terrorist attack.

Sure, we need to do whatever it takes to keep our country safe from a terrorist attack or threat, but if we are considering the safety of our citizens, then we need to look at what is happening in our homes every day.

It seems we have ‘normalised’ this type of abuse to the point that it doesn’t affect us or we turn a blind eye. Some might suggest ignorance is bliss, but these households are anything but bliss for women and children. And this is not just about women and children – men also experience abuse at alarming rates as well. Our teens also need support with the abuse and bullying they are experiencing everyday via social media or at school. It is obvious that there is a real need for many to feel heard and supported to know how to cope with abuse, and in how to leave an abusive relationship.

To bring any true change, we could begin by speaking more freely about the subtle forms of abuse in our relationships with others and explore the abuse we are encountering in our own lives, no matter how small or large this may be.

What if looking at abuse at the smallest level and calling it out allows us to deal with the more harming forms of abuse? If we don’t look at the more subtle forms of abuse, we may never be willing to look at how we can heal and address the darker and deeper forms of it.

I know for myself, I wasn’t willing to look at the abuse I lived with in my own life. I was abusing myself with food, unhealthy behaviours, drama and those self-deprecating thoughts that I would continually beat myself up with. Is it little wonder I wasn’t more proactive when abuse entered my own relationship? It wasn’t until I began to address the abuse I lived with from myself and others that I realised the cycle of abuse I had come to think as me was in truth miles away from the loving and precious woman I am, and that it was time to really honour myself and treat myself with love and respect.

So the antidote for abuse in my life was this self-honouring – listening to what I was truly feeling and not dismissing myself or doubting myself in any way. The more honouring of myself I was, even in the simplest of ways, the more I felt an inner strength and deeper respect for myself. It was the simple things like eating more nurturing foods, having a walk, not allowing any self-deprecating thoughts, going to bed early, and surrounding myself with supportive and loving friends that made a significant difference to how I felt every day.

Then, over time, I became more willing to see the abuse I had accepted from myself and others without any judgment or self-bashing. From there, my commitment to not turning a blind eye to the abuse around me grew. I began to see all the areas of abuse, both large and small, that I had conveniently turned away from before.

I now know that when we stay silent or ‘keep the peace’ to avoid rocking the boat, we can end up staying in an arrangement that gives abuse a louder voice.

It is our silence that allows domestic violence to proliferate in society.

If we look abuse in the eyes instead of retreating as I once did, it becomes a powerful tool for change. It doesn’t need our aggression or retaliation, simply a willingness to stand up and speak out against even the smallest of abuses with each other and with ourselves.

And yes, it would be ideal to have governments, politicians and the appropriate authorities ensure that those who offend with this type of abuse, either in the community or online, are made more accountable for their damaging actions. But this must not take away from the fact of the responsibility we all hold, how powerful we are as individuals and as a collective, to stand up and say no to abuse in all its forms.

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” (Albert Einstein)

References:

  1. Aic.gov.au. (2017). Homicide in Australia: 2010–11 to 2011–12: National Homicide Monitoring Program report. [online] Available at: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/mr/21-40/mr23.html [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].

By Anna Douglass, International Flight Attendant, Mother, dedicated student of the Ageless Wisdom, Australia

Related Reading:
Domestic violence … Are we All Responsible for the Cycle of Abuse?
“Why did you stay?” An Insight into Abuse
Behind Closed Doors

1,056 thoughts on “Domestic Violence – have we Normalised this Abuse?

  1. Anna you have posed an interesting yet distressing piece of information, its a global issue. Domestic violence (DV) within the home of any kind is unacceptable. Why and how as human beings, have we got to this state?

    Working in the health care industry, I observe more and more DV and it is becoming more and more violent, and sometimes scary, to the fact that even health care professionals are being affected, because of the retaliation to their own wellbeing.

    There is a root cause to this evil, not only for the offender but also the enabler. I don’t have any suggestions or magic solutions however I hope that more and more women, like yourself will one day say, enough is enough and take back their right to live equally as another.

  2. When I look at the abuse in my life I am more willing to deal with it and speak about it with others without tippy toeing around the subject. It allows others to see they can be the same around the subject of abuse (or any subject for that matter).

  3. When we abuse ourselves in small ways with food or lack of self-care this becomes a norm so we accept ever increasing harm and this is the same with domestic violence where what may seem trivial forms of abuse can fester and infect every part of life.

  4. I remember having a friend who was in utter shock when I called her stupid once, she couldn’t believe that I would insult her in such a manner. On the other hand, I couldn’t believe that she reacted so strongly. I was so used to the insults I hurled at family members & them back at me that it was completely normal to call another person stupid, ugly, fat and so on. But her disbelief shocked me to see that we can have different standards & not allow such type of communication.

    1. Viktoria, I have observed aggression unfortunately in certain cultures where the woman is classed as second or third class citizen. Where has this come from?
      Coming from the background that I come from, women are suppressed from the day they were born, I have felt that from a long time. As women we have also allowed this, a generational curse passed on and there will be a breaking point, as this imbalance cannot and will not occur for ever.

      Women and men in their true essence mean the world will be a harmonious place to live in, evil cannot prevail for ever.

  5. Because we don’t set standards in the home, abuse is regarded as normal. It is interesting also to observe that for many abuse is something they see coming at them or see out in the world, tut tutting at how bad things are, but do we ever stop to consider that it is not ok to get frustrated at strangers when they are providing a service on a help line, for example, or that we tell our kids to be quiet in a way that makes them feel like they are a waste of space? It is interesting that this quote, which is an awesome one, was uttered by a man who could not stay faithful to his wife and who was self disregarding.. Easy perhaps to say but to truly inspire, what is said has to be lived by the body that says it – only then mountains are moved.

  6. Silence is what allows domestic violence to proliferate. In fact it is our silence that feeds it and grows it. So when the silence initially stops, there is backlash that happens. And hence people often step back into the silence as they feel not equipped to handle the backlash and are not willing to go the full way. This applies to any form of abuse in any house and home, not matter how small or big.

    1. Yes Henrietta, until we call out the energy of it, the abuse simply magnifies. When we are silent we do not remain untouched – the circulation of the abuse keeps going as our reactions, whether they are unspoken or not, keep feeding the pool of energy from where that abuse comes from. It is this magnification that leads to the overwhelm, nip it in the bud and we need not feel powerless in the face of the force.

  7. Interestingly on payroll systems they now have ‘domestic violence’ paid leave or compensation sections too! I was pretty surprised about this in terms of how much it has become the norm in our society to the point where we consider this with wages. It also makes me question how much responsibility we are taking or not taking as a society when we add this to the payroll systems whilst not really addressing it otherwise (or we could say the current means of addressing this is not really giving any lasting results)?

  8. “it was time to really honour myself and treat myself with love and respect.” Thanks Anna for your blog, it’s come at a time where I feel open to examining abuse in my life and getting rid of it. I appreciated your words also on it not being about judgement or self bashing, that it can be a learning experience for everyone involved and dealt with quite lovingly.

  9. Living in the UK I was interested to know what the statistics where for the UK for domestic violence. Again the figures are shocking ‘In the year ending March 2018, an estimated 2.0 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.3 million women, 695,000 men).’ with there being a 23% increase and also this shows that domestic violence not only affects women but also men. (https://bit.ly/2Rbq1Mk). We are seeing this in much younger relationships as well now. I have known victims of domestic violence that even though they have been able to get out of the abusive relationship have still not known where to go for help or support and not felt this had been important for them. It is a very wise quote from Albert Einstein “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Says it all really.

    1. If we were to collate statistics, not just on domestic abuse, but on the everyday abuses we have so normalised, I think we would be shocked. It is so common to walk down the street and overhear people yelling at each other, being bad tempered with each other, shouting at their kids, kids pushing each other and bullying each other. Just in schools alone, the amount of children who are in tears every day because of peer on peer abuse is dismissed.

  10. With any aspect of life, when we choose to ignore something that is not okay, we are in effect planting the seed for that quality to take root and keep escalating.

    As is the nature of life, it will keep coming round for us to see again and again. And when it finally arrives on our own doorstep and we are the recipient of the atrocity, do we say “it came out of the blue”? But how can we say that, when we were complicit in creating the space for it all to happen in the first place.

  11. Once we know without a doubt that we are worthy of love, only then will we say an absolute no to any form of abuse.

  12. Until each one of us are very honest about the abuse in our own backyards and within ourselves then little will change out in the world.

  13. Governments can pass law after law in an attempt to reduce the shocking levels of abuse in our societies but these will simply be paper band-aids, which will keep falling off exposing the rot underneath them. It is when society as a whole comes to understand that the extreme forms of abuse, that we read and hear about daily, begin in the lives of each and every one of us, as small and usually acceptable forms of abuse, that we may finally have the understanding as to how to begin the much needed healing process; one that starts with us.

  14. Most of us when we think about domestic violence we think of physical violence, but it is known that people can be psychologically and financially abused also. Its very true that we although many of us in our relationships may not sustain any violence in our relationships, but we may accept things that could be considered as not caring or not loving. Its important that we take the steps to be more caring and more loving of ourselves first, then this provides the foundations for all relationships and what we will and won’t accept.

    1. It’s true Jennifer, and we may accept abuse because we consider it lesser than the more extreme forms, we use comparison of something much worse to allow abuse in subtler forms in our lives.

  15. I have been amazed at how behaviour that I have considered just normal all my life actually hurts others in ways that I never chose to be aware of before, or if I did I blocked it out. For example I have used withdrawing myself as a strategy all my life without seeing the abuse there is in that.

  16. It sounds hard to fathom but many of us, women, men, teenagers, children don’t realise they can leave an abusive disrespectful relationship. I was saying to a group of teenagers the other day that if they feel they are in a unhealthy relationship then they have every right and deserve not to be. Some believe they don’t deserve anything better or more and that in lies a problem because if we don’t say no to abuse then we are saying yes, even when we don’t want it.

  17. “The fact is, Australians are more at risk from domestic violence than they ever would be from a terrorist attack”. This is a great point. Perhaps the Government and the media put lots of effort into things like terrorism because its sensational and a problem that is ‘out there’ rather than us having to face the daily issues in our homes.

  18. If we ignore the more subtle forms of abuse, telling ourselves it’s not that bad, soon we’re putting up with the more extreme forms of abuse, especially when what love is, gets skewed. I’ve been in relationships where I have let someone slowly degrade my sense of self because I was so desperate to be loved (rather than connect to the love inside that I am), and had such low self worth that I chased any crumb of approval whilst pretending to be confident and strong on the outside.

  19. There is a lot of public awareness around domestic violence and this is a great thing but really nothing will chance until both men and women start to address the hurts they both carry and do something about it.

    1. Yes, and stop going to war with each other using all sorts of weaponry from verbal put-downs and slights, to physical fights.

    2. We did an assignment in class today where we needed to graph our family relationships and what they were like over generations. What was clear and very exposing for many was the amount of abuse in all forms and hostility between couples. We would be horrified if someone we didn’t know abused us, yet we allow abuse in our families because they’re family or they’re our partner. Abuse is abuse no matter who is acting it out and it should never be tolerated.

  20. “So the antidote for abuse in my life was this self-honouring – listening to what I was truly feeling and not dismissing myself or doubting myself in any way.” When one has low self-esteem ( that is fed by the abuser) it is hard to view the reality of the situation. Self-honouring, self-care and appreciation are great antidotes.

  21. ““The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” (Albert Einstein) This quote has stayed with me for years – ever since my twenties. If we just look on and do nothing we are complicit in whatever act we are viewing, and this an enabler.

    1. Agreed Sue its like we know something is not true, not loving and yet we allow it. When we allow abuse but don’t stop it are we not the enabler of that abuse?

    2. Yes indeed, such ignoring of things makes you not only complicit in the act but responsible for why we have such a world as we do, where no one cares except about themselves and their families.

    3. A teacher once said something similar in our secondary school assembly, and it stayed with me throughout my life, but I never took what was said and associated it with any other act of abuse, only fighting. Now I can see that there are many forms of abuse and not speaking up is one of them.

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