Domestic Violence: In Search of Well-informed Policy


Research Paper 27 1995-96

Dr Robyn Seth-Purdie
Consultant to Social Policy Group

Contents

Major Issues

Introduction

  • 1.1 Beyond the 'Domestic' Curtain"
  • 1.2 Defining Domestic Violence
  • 1.3 A Framework for Examining the Issues
  • 1.4 Caution Needed in Interpreting Data
  • 1.5 Summary of Australian and Overseas Data

2. Family Violence In Australia

  • 2.1 Paucity of Data
  • 2.2 Estimating the Cost of Family Violence
  • 2.3 Australian Community Attitudes to the Use of Violence
    • 2.3.1 Findings of the 1995 Attitude Survey
    • Table 1. Acceptability of Physical Force Against Wife in Specified Circumstances
  • 2.4 Australian Bureau of Statistics Crime and Safety Survey
    • Table 2. Victims of Assault
    • 2.4.1 Using the ABS Crime and Safety Survey to Indicate Prevalence of Male Partner Violence
  • 2.5 Combining Police Reports and Crime Survey Data
    • 2.5.1 South Australian Office of Crime Statistics
    • 2.5.2 Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia

3. Trying to Explain Family Violence

  • 3.1 Epidemiology
  • 3.2 Individual Pathology
  • 3.3 Neurological/Biochemical Disorders
  • 3.4 Gender, Power and Family Violence
    • 3.4.1 Instrumental Versus Expressive Violence
    • 3.4.2 Violence, Biology and Models of Masculinity
    • 3.4.3 Gender and Aggression in the Family
  • 3.5 Family Conflict, Resources and the 'Cycle of Violence'
  • 3.6 The Social and Cultural Transmission of Violence in the Family
    • 3.6.1 Societies Untroubled by Family Violence
    • 3.6.2 Social Legitimisation of Violence
    • 3.6.3 Violence in the Media
  • 3.7. Battered Partners
    • 3.7.1 Battered Men
  • 3.8 Criminological Perspectives
  • 3.9. Putting it Together

4. Can Family Violence Be Stopped?

  • 4.1 A Model Intervention Program?
  • 4.2 Looking for New Strategies

5. What Are We Doing?

  • 5.1 National Strategies
  • 5.2. Forthcoming ABS Women's Safety Survey
  • 5.3 Summing Up the Current Approach

6. What Else Can We Do?

Appendix 1 Family Violence: Some Data from Overseas

  • 1.1 Physical Violence in American Families: the Straus and Gelles Surveys
    • Table A.1.1 The Conflict Tactics Scale
    • 1.1.1 Physical Violence in American Families: Summary of the 1985 Survey
    • 1.1.2 Interpreting the Data
    • 1.1.3 How Common is Chronic Violence?
  • 1.2 Canadian National Survey of Partner Violence Against Women
    • 1.2.1 Incidence and Prevalence
    • Table A.1.2. Canadian Survey On Wife Assault
    • 1.2.2 The Cycle of Violence Over Generations
    • 1.2.3 The Demographics of Victim and Offender
    • 1.2.4 Victims' Use of Drugs and Alcohol
    • 1.2.5 Assistance for Victims
  • 1.3 New Zealand Survey

Appendix 2 Studies of Family Violence in Specific Australian Communities and Groups

  • 2.1 Pregnancy and Partner Abuse
    • Table A.2.1. Proportion of Women Abused Since the Age of 16
  • 2.2 Monash University Study of Injury Data
    • 2.2.1 Results of Monash Study
    • 2.2.2 Substantial Underdetection by Medical Staff
    • 2.2.3 Self-Inflicted Injury, Usage of Support Services and Family Violence
    • 2.2.4 Homicide
  • 2.3 Emergency Ward Studies
  • 2.4 Studies by Religious Groups
  • 2.5 Violence in Aboriginal Communities
  • 2.6 Family Violence in Ethnic Communities
  • 2.7 Violence in Homosexual Relationships
  • 2.8 Child Abuse
  • 2.9 Recent Publication: a General Practice-based Study of the Prevalence of Physical and Emotional Abuse Among Women Patients

Appendix 3 'Prediction' Checklists for Violence and Abuse

  • Table A.3.1. USA Spouse Violence 'Prediction' Checklist
  • Table A.3.2. USA Child Abuse 'Prediction' Checklist

Endnotes

Acronyms

Bibliography

Major Issues

'Violence' refers to the illegal or immoral use of force. 'Domestic violence' is a misleading label, historically suggesting behaviour which is either too private or trivial to warrant outside intervention. It is redolent of the dim, recent past when, as the head of a household, a man could dispense physical chastisement to his wife and children, and a wife, through the marriage contract, was considered to have surrendered the right to refuse sexual access to her husband. Perhaps because of these associations, 'domestic violence' is often used to refer to violence by men against their wives or children. Although violent crime is predominantly committed by men (against other men), violence within families can affect men, women, children and the elderly. Use of the term 'family violence' would reflect this fact.

In the seventies, the women's refuge movement was founded by women's groups, who succeeded in having the issue of wife-beating placed on the public agenda. Community standards of what constitutes acceptable use of force between family members are changing, probably assisted by publicity campaigns against 'domestic violence'. However, a recent study has shown that not all groups demonstrate equal awareness of the issues: the less educated and those of non-English speaking backgrounds show lower levels of awareness than the community as a whole.

As yet there is no national data base on the incidence and patterns of family abuse. Increased media focus on family violence may create the impression that base rates are increasing, but this is probably not the case. What the available data does indicate is that family violence occurs in Australia on a comparable scale to the USA and Canada, where some large surveys have been carried out. On the basis of the studies cited in this paper, up to 5% of men and 22% of women may experience spouse assault each year; up to 30% of women and 25% of men may have experienced such assault at some time. No base rate estimates are available for child and elder abuse.

Family violence is an issue of major community concern, especially to women. It entails substantial personal, social and economic costs. Given the current state of knowledge, estimating these costs is, at best, imprecise, but one estimate places the monetary cost of violence against women as $1.5 billion annually in NSW alone. Costs include medical treatment, income support and special accommodation, lost productivity, and family law services, not to mention the costs of disturbed child and adolescent behaviour, and the ultimate production of a new generation of victims and abusers.

There are many different approaches to the explanation of family violence. However, clinical surveys and cross-cultural research indicate that gender inequality, the social isolation of families and traditions of resolving conflict through aggression, are all positively related to high levels of family violence. In particular, aggressive, non-caring models of masculinity combined with highly submissive models of femineity, may be implicated in producing family violence in our society. Childhood exposure to family violence, as a victim of abuse or a witness of violence between parents, has emerged as one of the most important predictors of adult involvement in family violence, as victim or perpetrator. Family violence can be found at any income or status level, but research from overseas suggests that the impoverished and marginalised are over-represented among the ranks of victims and offenders.

Responsibility for programs directed towards the prevention or mitigation of family violence is shared among different levels of government. The Commonwealth has overall responsibility for securing fundamental human rights, such as security of person. It foots the bill for many of the costs associated with family violence, through the funding of the Medicare system, the family court and social security and, jointly with the States, funding of supported accommodation services. However, the States are responsible for law enforcement, education and social services. At both federal and state levels portfolio coverage of family violence is divided amongst women's units, health, law enforcement, family law and community welfare ministries.

There are good arguments for adopting a coherent approach to family violence and treating its different forms as related aspects of the same phenomenon. Approaches which focus on one aspect of violence between family members, such as male partner violence against women (as per the 1993 National Strategy on Violence Against Women), or child-abuse, without taking into account other forms, may not lead to a proper understanding of the role violence plays in relationships between family members and between individuals and social institutions generally. The need for a coordinated policy can be seen in the fact that although child abuse and spouse abuse are good predictors of each other, no concerted efforts have been made to detect, treat and prevent violence by all those agencies which have the opportunity to diagnose incidents of either type of abuse. In developing an 'early warning system' considerations of individual privacy may need to be balanced against the costs of failing to intervene in abusive relationships.

Studies in the United States have shown that arrest does not deter all types of offenders. Those least likely to be deterred are those from marginalised groups, who may already feel stigmatised in their interactions with authority. This has prompted some experts to call for the introduction of a graduated response to family violence on the part of enforcement authorities, commencing with 'community conferencing', which aims to re-integrate offenders, after bringing them to a realisation that their behaviour is unacceptable. In this model, imprisonment is used only as a last resort.

Reducing the incidence of family violence requires, in addition to special interventions to prevent further violence against victims, changes in social child-rearing practices, including alternatives to the use of corporal punishment of children. It also needs significant changes in attitudes toward partnership in marriage, responsibility for child-care, and support networks to take the place of the extended family in relieving the stress of child-care and guarding against the development of chronic abuse. Some strategies suggested in this paper include:

  • establishment of a national clearing house to coordinate incidence data and program information on family violence in all its forms;
  • testing a system whereby police are required to choose from a range of alternatives including 'community conferencing', in response to family disturbances;
  • developing a coordinated risk alert system to identify children and adults at risk of family violence;
  • developing a national awareness program promoting alternatives to corporal punishment of children as a precursor to the introduction of a national criminal code prohibiting corporal punishment; and
  • development of a national relationship skills/parenting skills program in a range of culturally appropriate forms, to teach techniques of conflict resolution and stress management, and to raise awareness of basic human rights within the family.

Establishing moral norms and social institutions opposed to violence can achieve a degree of success in controlling it. In the long run, however, they will be most effective in a cohesive society, one in which all members feel they have a valuable stake. For this reason, expenditure on 'social development', may be the best preventative measure.

Introduction

1.1 Beyond the 'Domestic' Curtain

In our society interactions between family members have only recently come to be considered a legitimate focus of outside scrutiny. Violence between people in a married or de facto relationship is still characterised as 'domestic', a label which can be regarded as a relic of times past when law enforcement authorities distinguished between public and domestic jurisdictions. In its extreme expression, this distinction meant that little short of fatal injury would open the domestic domain to public authority, as these descriptions of the traditional position of the male head of household indicate:

The family in Britain held much the same position as under Roman law: the husband/father was head of household and thus in control; women and children were chattels to be used and abused by the paterfamilias as he chose.(1)

Historically the law distinguished between public matters and private family matters, leaving the family under the governance of the husband and father. English common law made a Husband and Wife legally one entity, and that one was the Husband...The law gave him the right - even the obligation - to "chastise" his women and his children....The law drew a curtain of privacy about each man's household to shield it from legal scrutiny...(2)

According to Blackstone's 1768 codification of the common law a husband had the right to physically chastise an errant wife provided that the diameter of the stick was no bigger than his thumb(3). In an 1884 decision the Supreme Court of Carolina rejected the notion that a husband had a right to chastise his wife under any circumstances, but then added:

If no permanent injury has been inflicted, nor malice nor cruelty, nor dangerous violence shown by the husband, it is better to draw the curtain, shut out the public gaze, and leave the parties to forgive and forget.(4)

The first English law against 'Aggravated Assaults Upon Women and Children' was passed by Parliament in 1853.(5)

Under common law, a husband could not be convicted of raping his wife, a doctrine first articulated by Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale in the 17th century:

But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife has given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.(6)

Legislation to remove the husband's immunity from prosecution for marital rape was introduced in some Australian states only in the 1970's (Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce, 1991:173) and in South Australia marriage to the victim is still a defence against a charge of rape except where aggravated assault or gross indecency is involved.(7)

The strengthening commitment to individual rights which has arisen along with the women's movement over the last generation has significant implications for the domestic/public distinction. Some behaviour previously considered private or domestic is no longer so. It is a recently articulated aspect of Australian government policy that marriage must be entered into freely and that marriage is an equal partnership, a principle which Australia has supported in international fora since the 1994 UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The reporting of suspected child abuse is now mandatory in all states and territories except the ACT, where it is to be phased in over the next two years, and Western Australia.

Nevertheless, there are reminders that not all components of the legal system have caught up with the changed perspective. One such example is the now notorious suggestion by a South Australian supreme court judge that a husband might be justified in using force in order to obtain his wife's consent to sexual intercourse. In his summing up to the jury in a marital rape case, Mr Justice Bollen said:

There is, of course, nothing wrong with a husband, faced with his wife's initial refusal to engage in sexual intercourse, in attempting, in an acceptable way, to persuade her to change her mind, and that may involve a measure of rougher than usual handling.(8)

A further example is the enduring tendency of some police to refer to certain types of assignment as 'only domestic'(9)

Nevertheless, the view is gaining public strength and support that violations of fundamental human rights cannot be sanctioned, regardless of whether they occur behind the curtain which separates the 'domestic' from the 'public'.

1.2 Defining Domestic Violence

There is no common definition of 'domestic violence' in use throughout Australia; rather, the different definitions and interpretations in use depend on the background and perspective of the user.(10)

The label 'domestic violence' carries certain connotations: first that of subject matter which is essentially either too trivial or private to warrant public scrutiny; second that of violence by men toward their female partners. Both are misleading. Violence between family members is a serious, public issue, even if individual instances remain hidden from public view. Moreover, violence and other forms of abuse may occur between parents and children, partners of both sexes and between the aged and their adult carers, although the consequences of violence vary markedly according to the difference in power and strength between offender and victim.

Some authors do not use the term 'domestic violence', instead referring to 'family violence' or 'criminal violence in the home'.

The definition of ' violence' is subject to variation between studies. It is used to describe a range of behaviours including major and minor assault, threat and intimidation, economic deprivation, and emotional abuse. The latter can include systematic denigration and controlling behaviour so extreme that it leads to social isolation and severe dependency(11).

Goode(12) attempted to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate uses of force. Deliberately eschewing such a distinction, Straus (13) defined violence as:

an act carried out with the intention or perceived intention of hurting someone.

- a definition designed to mesh with the legal definition of assault, and the one employed in the large surveys of violence in the American family described in Appendix 1.1.

By contrast, an Australian study of hospital emergency ward patients based its definition on whether injury had occurred:

a woman was classified as having experienced domestic violence if she reported that her injury had been caused by someone close to her, such as a relative or partner, and if she reported that the person meant to hurt her, or that she was not sure whether the person meant to hurt her because he or she was out of control owing to alcohol, drugs or circumstances.(14)

Victoria's Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce (1994) sought to take into account the overall impact of violent behaviour in the family with the following definition:

Violence may be defined as the use of force, implied or actual, to achieve control over another person.(15)

Evidence from Australia and overseas indicates that physical violence or the threat of violence is commonly part of a broader pattern of abuse(16)(17). The family relationships which cause such personal misery and social cost are abusive ones. 'Spouse abuse' and 'child abuse' are both used to describe behaviour which may include physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

1.3 A Framework for Examining the Issues

The traditional power relationships within a family in most, if not all, of the cultural backgrounds found in Australian society, legitimised the use of force by men over their wives, and of children by their parents. The label 'domestic violence' serves as a reminder of the dim recent past and should perhaps be abandoned to reflect changes in community standards - in particular, a diminishing imbalance in the power relationships between family members, as more women enter marriage as equal partners, and as the implications of Australia's recognition of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are reflected in the legal system. Many forms of abuse, such as assault and sexual assault, are illegal, albeit that the legal system affords limited protection from, or redress for, such offences when they are committed by family members.

The behaviours proscribed by law are those which represent violations of fundamental human rights, such as Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, which reads in part: 'everyone has the right to liberty and security of person'. Studies of family abuse which use legal definitions of physical and sexual assault may be used as a benchmark for the effectiveness of the system of social control designed to protect fundamental rights.

The legal definitions of assault vary amongst the state and territory jurisdictions in Australia, but the basic concept is conveyed in these common law concepts:

assault 1. a form of trespass in which one person intentionally arouses in another an apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive conduct; often used loosely as synonymous with battery. 2. a criminal offence which in the context of criminal statutes generally includes battery as well as assault in the strict sense.

battery a form of trespass involving direct intentional interference with the person of another.(18)

Emotional and psychological abuse in families can also give rise to personal, social and economic costs. It will be argued, on the basis of the evidence linking them, that both physical and emotional abuse need to be researched as part of the development of a useful data base, but that behaviour which falls within legal classification of assault or sexual assault should be clearly distinguished from other forms of abuse.

In the discussion below, unless otherwise indicated, 'violence' will be used to refer to the actual or threatened use of physical force, including simple assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault and rape. 'Abuse' will be used to refer to maltreatment which may include violence.

1.4 Caution Needed in Interpreting Data

Accurate estimates of the real incidence of family violence are notoriously difficult to obtain. Officially recorded rates, which rely on victim reports, will almost certainly be underestimates; rates obtained from surveys of self-selected groups (for example in a phone-in), are likely to be overestimates. Survey statistics and estimates in this area must be treated with the usual degree of caution - the surveys on which they are based may be subject to criticism on methodological grounds, including sampling methods as well as the design of survey questions. Differences in methodology between studies usually mean that prima facie comparison of their results is risky.

Coochey,(19) a strong critic of what he considers bias against men in the research and reporting of family violence, says that the surveys cited in the UNICEF report discussed in Appendix 1, were based on biased samples. He also calls into question the results of a Canadian survey (Appendix 1.2), allegedly because the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had criticised it for using leading questions. However, inquiries have revealed that there has been no official ABS criticism of the Canadian survey methodology.(20) This highlights the need to approach both research and criticism with a healthy degree of scepticism where emotive issues are concerned.

This paper follows the pattern established in most research and media treatment of the subject in that it concentrates on partner abuse by male offenders - although one of its major objectives is to highlight the unwisdom of considering this form of violence between intimates in isolation from others. The findings reported here are not, in general, accompanied by any appraisal of the studies which produced them. Definitions of violence and some description of methodology have mostly been added to the discussion of the larger studies to assist in the interpretation of their results.

1.5 Summary of Australian and Overseas Data

The caution set out in 1.4 above, about comparing the results of studies employing different methodology, applies here. However, for indicative purposes only, the range of results obtained in the Australian and overseas studies reported in this paper, are given below. They suggest that the frequency and pattern of family violence here are roughly comparable to those in the USA and Canada.

In the Australian studies reported here the following victimisation rates have been obtained:

  • assault/abuse of female partner by male:
    • annual incidence: from 109 per 100 000 (based on police records) to approximately 22% ("minor" violence ) or 10% ("severe" violence on the Conflict Tactics Scale -cf Appendix 1.1);
    • lifetime experience: from more than 23 % to 30%;
    • during pregnancy: one estimate of 9%;
  • assault/abuse of male partner by female:
    • annual incidence: from 13 per 100 000 (based on police records) to approximately 5%;
    • lifetime experience: from 6.3% to approximately 25%;
  • child abuse:
    • annual rate (substantiated cases) : 5.7 per 1000 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1995);
    • women reporting physical abuse as a child : 10%: 7%, 7% repeatedly.

The following rates have been reported in overseas studies:

  • assault/abuse of female partner by male:
    • annual incidence: from 3% (Canada) to 15% (New Zealand);
    • lifetime experience: from 25% to 80% (estimates for Pakistan and Chile, estimate for Canada 29%);
  • assault/abuse of male partner by female:
    • annual incidence: 12.4% (US);
  • child abuse:
    • annual rate: 10% (US estimate).

A more detailed consideration of overseas data on family violence appears in Appendix 1.

2. Family Violence In Australia

2.1 Paucity of Data

Although there is a rapidly growing body of data on rates of family violence in selected groups of the Australian population, such as those attending refuges, public hospitals, or responding to phone-ins, there is little data on the incidence and prevalence of family violence in the general population. This is partly because the subject has only recently captured public interest, and partly because of the sensitive and difficult problem of obtaining information about criminal behaviour where offender and victim may not only know each other, but still be living in a close relationship.

Without systematic research employing common definitions and methodologies and large scale surveys of the general population, such as those undertaken in the United States and Canada (cf Appendix 1.1 and 1.2), it is difficult to assemble a sound body of information to underpin the development of appropriate prevention, protection and treatment strategies.

The few recent studies which have yielded information about male partner violence against women, have not used comparable methodologies or even common definitions of violence.

However, the indications so far are of comparable patterns of family violence in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

2.2 Estimating the Cost of Family Violence

The shortage of data referred to in the preceding section, makes it difficult to come up with very meaningful estimates of costs of family violence to individuals and the community. However, for some states attempts have been made in relation to the costs of male partner violence against women:

  • A Tasmanian study found that the total direct cost of 'domestic violence' on a sample of 40 women was nearly $4 million. A conservative costing for the State was $17.67 million per annum, with the community/government bearing the greater burden of direct costs. Social security and other financial support for victims who left a relationship, constituted 57% of the total costs, the next largest component being public housing and crisis accommodation. Property lost/destroyed, sick leave, changes in schools, bad debts, security measures and legal costs in custody access were the major direct costs to victims.(21)
  • In NSW the annual cost of 'domestic violence' was estimated at $1.5 billion per annum.(22)
  • A Queensland study found annual costs of $557 million with rape and sexual assault an additional $63 million per year.(23)

Accurate costings of family violence would need to include, in addition to the immediate costs of medical treatment, use of the family court and the criminal justice system, special accommodation services, income support, and lost productivity, the less direct costs of drug and alcohol abuse and self-injury among victims and, most importantly, the costs associated with behavioural problems, in affected children and adolescents children, which culminate in the creation of a new generation of violent offenders (cf 3. below).

2.3 Australian Community Attitudes to the Use of Violence

The Office of the Status of Women (OSW) has commissioned two surveys on community attitudes toward the use of violence in the family. The 'Domestic Violence Attitude Survey' was undertaken in 1988 by the Public Policy Research Centre, as part of the National Domestic Violence Education program 1987-1990. The second, 'Community Attitudes to Violence Against Women' was undertaken in 1995 by AWOP Research Service to provide a 'stocktake' of community attitudes to violence against women and suggest directions for future community education programs.

The ABS has expressed concern about the questionnaire design, lack of definitions and sample selection techniques used in the 1988 survey (Senate Economics Legislation Committee - Question on Notice, Program/Sub-program 3 - Australian Bureau of Statistics - 3.1 Statistical Operations: response to question by Senator Short on 5 June 1995). Nevertheless, the study, which also examined attitudes towards parental use of force against children, concluded:

This study has shown that large sections of the community considered violence is justifiable in the home. Parental violence towards children in the form of slapping or smacking was approved by almost two thirds of people. Generally, violence towards one's wife was seen as less justifiable than towards children. One in twenty thought that extreme forms of violence such as kicking, beating, and threatening or using a weapon can be justified against either wife or child.(24)

2.3.1 Findings of the 1995 Attitude Survey

The major findings of the 1995 Survey of Community Attitudes to Violence Against Women, are described below.

To enable some evaluation of attitude trends, the 1995 survey repeated some of the key questions used in 1987.

Table 1. Acceptability of Physical Force Against Wife in Specified Circumstances

         Circumstances            AGREE 1987        AGREE 1995   

Argues with or refuse to obey             2%                1%        
  him                                                                   

Wastes money                              2%                1%        

Doesn't keep the house clean              2%                1%        

Doesn't have meals ready on time          1%                1%        

Keeps nagging him                         4%                2%        

Refuse to sleep with him                  3%                1%        

Admits to sleeping with another          11%                6%        
  man                                                                   

One or more of the above                 14%                8%        


Table 1 above shows a comparison of responses in 1987 and 1995 respectively, to questions concerning the acceptability of a man's using force against his wife in specified circumstances. Support for the use of force in one or more of these circumstances fell from 14% to 8%, an indication that 'provocation' is now less widely considered a justification for violence against women than formerly.

The percentage of respondents acknowledging that 'domestic violence' is a criminal offence was 93% in 1995 (94% f, 91% m) compared with 79% (82% f, 76% m) in 1987. These results may reflect the influence of campaigns to change community attitudes.

Community concern about violence

Violence and crime are major community concerns. Eighty percent of women and 73% of men were worried about violence, and about one third of men and women named violence as the main issue affecting women (closely followed by inequality). More than two thirds of respondents felt that people have became more violent over the last five to ten years.

Types of violence feared and expected

Men and women differed in the forms of violence they most feared. The most common forms identified by men were home intrusion (26%), attacks on the street (15%), then assaults or bashings and 'domestic violence' (both 11%). For women the major forms were home intrusion (31%), attacks on the street and general vulnerability to violence (23%), followed by 'domestic violence' (22%).

The survey found different expectations about the types of violence likely to be experienced by men and women. For men they were: alcohol related (29%); assaults (29%); then fights and brawls (15%). For women they were: 'domestic violence' (60%); sexual violence (42%); and assaults 26%). The major components of 'domestic violence' in this instance were:

'DV generally (38%). Physical DV (17%). Emotional DV (4%). Alcohol/drug-related DV. Verbal DV. Sexual DV''.(25)

Regarding women's experience of violence over a life-time, the expectation was that: about 6 out of 10 would experience verbal abuse or threats, and sexual harassment; 5 out of 10 would be subjected to 'domestic violence', and 3 out of 10 would be stalked, raped, sexually assaulted or attacked in the street.

Perceptions about domestic violence

The survey did not impose a definition of 'domestic violence', but elicited from the respondents their perceptions about the main forms of 'domestic violence'. These were: beating/bashing/wife-battery (25%); general physical violence (23%); hitting/ punching/ slapping around (11%); verbal abuse/yelling/abusive language (11%). Less commonly mentioned were: arguments between spouses (6%); physical violence between spouses/ hitting each other (5%); and mental abuse/mind games (4%).

Respondents preferred to speak of specific types of violence rather than the general term'violence against women'. They identified the causes of 'domestic violence' as financial pressure including unemployment (57%); alcohol (including drugs/gambling) 43%, relationship problems (36%), other pressure (24%), perpetrator's personality/temperament (28%), provocation/women's behaviour (20%); and men's socialisation/dominance 17%.

The survey found that 86% of respondents considered men were more likely to be perpetrators of 'domestic violence'. However, when respondents were asked 'who commits acts of domestic violence - mainly men, mainly women, or both men or women?', the initial response pattern was: mainly men (50%); both men or women (47%). On further probing, most of the latter group declared men to be more likely perpetrators.

The variety of responses given by the survey participants confirms the suggestion in 1.2 above, that the term 'domestic violence' is misleading, confusing or just not very useful. Where it appears in the survey, it needs to be interpreted with caution: respondents need not have been referring to one-sided or to physical violence.

Pockets of lesser awareness

The report identified variations throughout the community in the level of awareness of the issues: women showed a higher overall level of awareness than men; men with high education levels and in white collar occupations were better informed than blue collar workers; people from non-English speaking backgrounds were less well-informed than the population as a whole.

Assistance to victims

The legal system was not perceived as offering much assistance to victims of 'domestic violence' . Most people (92%: 94% f, 90% m) considered that people who experience 'domestic violence' are reluctant to go to the police. Help from family and friends, refuges/safe houses, and counselling for victims were identified as the main ways to assist victims.

Community education

The report concluded that the priorities for the next stage of community education are:

  • to raise awareness and understanding of sexual violence;
  • to improve further community attitudes to, and understanding of women who experience violence;
  • to concentrate on how the community should respond that is, what to do to help those affected and to reduce violence;
  • to improve the standards of the legal system and police, as ways of assisting women and reducing violence; and
  • to target the population groups which are less advanced in their awareness and understanding of the issues.(26)

Conclusions

The report indicates a generally growing community awareness and declining acceptance of violence against women by their male partners, although the level of awareness is not uniform and some groups may need to be specially targeted in future education programs. It also indicates that the legal system has not kept pace with this change in consciousness and is not perceived as offering effective protection for victims.

2.4 Australian Bureau of Statistics Crime and Safety Survey

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey on Crime and Safety in Australia, undertaken in 1975, 1983 and 1993, provides the most comprehensive data on crime victims, with approximately 52,300 persons aged 15 years or over taking part in the 1993 version.(27) Some results from the 1993 survey are summarised in Table 2.

Table 2. Victims of Assault


                                    -('000)-

                             Male                   Female           

At home (inside)          16.3        (0.2%)        41.3        (0.6%)   

At home (outside)         16.4       (0.2%)          8.9        (0.1%)   

At another's home          5.1        (0.1%)         7.0        (0.1%)   
(in)                                                                     

At work/study             20.4        (0.3%)        12.4        (0.2%)   
(inside)                                                                 

At work/study             16.8        (0.3%)         6.2        (0.1%)   
(outside)                                                                

Inside other              23.3        (0.4%)        3.8*       (0.1%)*   
building                                                                 

Other                    115.5        (1.8%)        40.9        (0.6%)   

Total                    213.8       (3.3%)        120.4       (1.8%)  


Notes

(i) the statistics reported in the survey are not comparable with police statistics - the respondents reported incidents based on whether they perceived themselves to have been victims of certain categories of crime; many victims had not contacted the police.

(*)indicates very small sample size: care must be exercised in interpreting data as it is subject to a higher margin of error as an estimate of the true population incidence.

Table 2 shows estimates of the number in thousands of people in the Australian population who were victims of assault in the 12 months prior to April 1993. The figures in brackets are the estimated percentages of persons in each category, a victimisation rate. Just under 30% of assault victims said they had been physically injured in the last incident.

The total rate of personal assault was 2.3% compared with 3.4% in 1983 (comparison is problematic owing to the difference in survey methods). This fall was largely as a result of a fall in the victimisation rate for males (from 4.9% to 3.3%) whilst the rate for females remained steady (1.9% and 1.8% respectively).

Although the overall rate of assault was greater for males than females, the converse was true for assaults inside the home. The survey did not specifically collect data on partner violence, but did find that of female victims of assault who reported the last incident as occurring inside the home, over 90% said that the offender was known to them, and 38% of this group had been victims of assault on 3 or more occasions in the previous 12 months.

The survey also collected information on sexual assaults on females 18 or over. The findings were that an estimated 38,900 females over the age of 18 (O.6%) had been victims of at least one sexual assault in the previous year, with 30.5% stating that they had been physically injured in the last incident. Just on two thirds of sexual assault victims said that in the last incident the offender was known to them. Only 25% of sexual assault incidents had been reported to the police. The most common reasons given for not reporting were: 'private matter' and 'afraid of reprisal/revenge' .

2.4.1 Using the ABS Crime and Safety Survey to Indicate Prevalence of Male Partner Violence

The rate of assault for women - 1.8% in the year preceding the survey - is quite low in comparison with other estimates of the prevalence of violence against women in the community. It has been cited as evidence that high estimates (up to 1 in 3) of the proportion of women who have been assaulted by their male partners, are unjustified.(28)

Care should be taken in interpreting the rates obtained in the Crime Survey. They should probably not be used to conclude that partner violence against women is not a widespread problem:

  • the Canadian study described in Appendix 1.2 found an almost 10 fold difference between the incidence (rate during previous year) and prevalence (lifetime experience) of male assault against wives. A similar differential may apply here;
  • the Canadian study found an incidence rate of 3% for physical and/or sexual assault. The ABS has not published an estimate of the combined incidence of physical or sexual assault, but that rate would almost certainly be greater than that of physical assault alone;
  • although the ABS survey had quite a high response rate (86.4% for individuals), and found no evidence of non-response bias, the possibility cannot be discounted that it failed to elicit information from more victims of violence than non-victims, or elicited falsely negative responses from individuals who have experienced family violence but did not consider it criminal assault.(29) The Canadian study took special precautions to deal with the sensitivity of the subject and achieved an extremely high response rate of 91% among individuals contacted, but only 64% of eligible households.(30)

2.5 Combining Police Reports and Crime Survey Data

2.5.1 South Australian Office of Crime Statistics

Acknowledging that 'domestic violence' is commonly understood as abuse that occurs between partners or ex-partners and that it can be used to refer to a range of abusive behaviour, Gardner(31) focused on threats and incidents of physical violence. The study is based on police records of violent crime as well as on crime survey data.

In 1992 there were 7,492 violent crimes reported to the police by females in South Australia. Using the above definition, over one in six (18.2%) could be classified as 'domestic violence'- a lower estimate given that records did not always specify relationship between victim and offender. The apprehension rate for offenders in this category was higher than for all violent offences reported by females (58.9% versus 43.9%). Extrapolating from the number of individuals who reported at least one such incident, the rate ofdomestic violence'for the whole South Australian female population was estimated at 3.4 per 1000 (0.3%) married, separated and divorced women.

The crime victimisation survey was an attempt to obtain data on a fuller range of incidents, given that many are not reported to police. It found that in the previous year 1.7% of women in married or defacto relationships had been threatened with force or attacked, and only 10.3% of those assaults had been committed by a partner or ex-partner. However, the rates were much higher for separated or divorced women: 8.3% assaulted and 51.5% of those assaults were committed by a partner or ex-partner.

The study concluded that for South Australia in 1992: the incidence of 'domestic violence' among women in a relationship was 2 per 1000 (0.2%) and for divorced or separated women the incidence was 42.7 per 1,000 (4.3%). It confirmed the lower overall crime victimisation rate for women compared with men, together with the much higher risks for women associated with their own homes and current or former partners.

Comments made in the previous section about the relationship between incidence and prevalence rates also apply here. The Canadian experience demonstrates that the annual incidence of violence experienced by women may be an order of magnitude smaller than the rate of exposure over a lifetime and that higher rates are found when sexual assault is included as a form of violence.

2.5.2 Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia

Using police records, the Crime Research Centre found that in 1993 female partners or ex-partners were victims in 89.5% of reported cases of spousal violence in Western Australia. Spousal violence represented 13.6% of reported attacks against women and 1.3% of attacks against men. The estimated incidence rates for partner victimisation were 109.7 per 100,000 women and 13.0 per 100,000 men. Approximately 9 out of 10 victims suffered some form of injury. Women were more than 8 times more likely to be victims than men, but men were significantly more likely to suffer a serious injury.(32) See the preceding paragraph for comments about incidence, prevalence etc.

On the basis of their findings, which also involved an analysis of data from surveys, restraining orders and hospital usage, the authors identified Aboriginal communities, rural communities and the poor and disadvantaged as important targets for programs aimed at the prevention and control of family violence.(33)

Further studies of family violence in specific Australian communities and groups are detailed in Appendix 2.

3. Trying to Explain Family Violence

Explanations for family violence can be sought through the lenses of many different disciplines. The subject is complex and it may be that severe violence leading to injury or death cannot be considered part of a common continuum with less severe, more common forms of violence. Although it has been argued here that different forms of family violence should not be considered in isolation, there are those who stress that the aetiology of violence between family members may differ according to the relationship between perpetrator and victim:

Violence in the family takes many forms and has many victims...it includes physical violence and sexual abuse and is directed against children, adolescents, wives, husbands, elderly relatives and siblings. ... there is no reason at present to assume that these various phenomena follow identical, or even substantially similar dynamics...(34)

Some approaches to describing and understanding family violence are outlined below. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

3.1 Epidemiology

The epidemiological model, drawn from the public health sphere, focuses on identifying risk factors preparatory to the development of suitable prevention/treatment strategies. The three categories of prevention are:

Primary prevention: action which stops the problem before it occurs

Secondary prevention:activity designed to stop the problem at a very early stage

Tertiary prevention:aims to ameliorate a serious problem once it has developed, reducing the duration and/or severity of its consequences and preventing its recurrence.(35)

Sedlak(36) reviewed studies on risk factors for husband-to-wife violence. The most important factors to emerge were:

  • the abuser's exposure to abuse in childhood. This factor was doubly important, as it was the only one consistently related to the severity and/or frequency of wife abuse;
  • the victim's being abused as a child; and
  • the occurrence of child abuse in the household .

Other studies have identified power disbalance between the partners as an important factor.

Using data obtained in the first National Survey of Family Violence, Straus et al.(37) constructed abuse 'prediction' checklists for spouse abuse by both husbands and wives and child abuse by both mothers and fathers. These are discussed in tables in Appendix 3.

3.2 Individual Pathology

The checklist approach discussed in Appendix 3 focuses on abnormal traits of the violent offender or abuser, and often of the victim. According to this view, individual personality defects may be exhibited or magnified in times of stress or on exposure to alcohol or other drugs. This approach is criticised by some professionals who work in the area of family violence, because of its tendency to excuse offenders and blame the victims:

For decades professionals in the mental health community have described men who batter as having poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment, dependency or having underlying depression. Men who batter may be diagnosed as borderline personality, obsessive compulsive, passive-aggressive or sadistic.

Battered women have been described by therapists as being co-dependent, masochistic, having low self-esteem, paranoid or provocative.(38)

3.3 Neurological/Biochemical Disorders

Some researchers have sought to explain violent behaviour as the consequence of neurological or biochemical disorder, which may increase the individual's susceptibility to antisocial influences:

Over the past 30 years evidence has accumulated that developmental and acquired neurological defects are far more common in violently aggressive individuals than in the population at large, but there has been no systematic examination of the neurological status of batterers/abusers per se.(39)

Elliot emphasises the need for careful clinical screening, including EEG examination, neuropsychological testing and metabolic studies. He points to the availability of medication for a number of conditions, including, hyperactivity, sexual dyscontrol, premenstrual aggression and compulsive violence.(40) He also comments that 'pyschosurgery is useful for incorrigibly violent patients who do not respond to medication', although most neurosurgeons in the United States 'see no option but to avoid the risks of catastrophic litigation in case of nonsuccess'.

3.4 Gender, Power and Family Violence

The political model used by many feminist writers on family violence relates abuse of women and children by men to a social structure which is predominantly patriarchal and embedded with stereotyped male and female gender roles. Such a structure, with its rigid gender role differentiation, belongs to the dim, recent past - in which wives and children were no more or less than the property of the paterfamilias, the husband and father, the undisputed head of the family:

The political model views violence in the home as the extension into private life of the social control exercised by men over women and children in virtually every institution. The basis for this control is men's privileged access to resources and the occasion for violence the threat to this privilege, both real or perceived, posed by women's growing independence. Far more important than an inheritance of violence or psychopathology in this approach are situational dynamics involving power balance in areas ranging from sexuality through work. ....Institutional maltreatment plays a crucial role in battering as well. As help is denied or actually turned against the abused woman, her options are closed, she feels entrapped, and may become alternately passive or hostile.(41)

The Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce rejected explanations based on class, individual pathology or drug abuse, arguing strongly for the inclusion of gender as the primary focus for any research which seeks to explain the causes of family violence:

At present, a feminist response to the question of why family violence occurs is based on several issues, namely:

  • the higher prevalence of female victims to male victims, and the use of violence as a form of social and economic control of women;
  • the social acceptance of male violence and control;
  • the fact that many women are unable to leave abusive situations because of the inadequacy of institutional responses to their situation;
  • the connections with 'other'forms of violence against women and children, ie. rape or sexual harassment.(42)

Straus & Smith identify male dominance in the family and in society as one of five major factors responsible for family violence.

Each of the studies on this issue that have been conducted at the Family Research Laboratory find that male-dominant marriages have the highest level of violence.(43)

The lingering concept of the male as the head of the family may lead to the use of force to resolve conflict:

The problem with this conception is that many, if not most, husbands implicitly presume, because of being the husband, they have the right to have the final say in decisions affecting the family. If agreement can not be reached and they have 'tried everything'- persuasion, yelling, reasoning, sulking, pleading etc.- there is an almost overwhelming temptation to use physical force as a resource to maintain their power within the family.(44)

That often assures the man does have the final say.(45)

Economic inequality also heightens the risk that women will remain in abusive relationships.(46)

The gender-based power explanation is lent additional credence by evidence that suggests women's violence in the family is primarily a response to male violence. However, such findings are from clinical samples, such as battered women found in refuges, rather than random samples of the population. It may be that battered women assault their spouses less than they are assaulted, and rarely or never initiate violence - this is not inconsistent with findings that, for the population as a whole, women are as violent as men and initiate violence just as often, - at least on a measuring instrument such as the CTS.(47)

As noted earlier, women have been found, on the whole, to suffer greater injury than men and to be more reliable in reporting accurately the rates at which they make minor as well as severe assaults on their partners - men under-report the latter(48) and some violent men have been found to have over-estimated the degree to which they have been victimised by their wives.(49)

3.4.1 Instrumental Versus Expressive Violence

In the gender-power based explanation of men's violence toward women, violence is used by the perpetrator as an instrument to achieve the end of control. Campell(50) hypothesises that there are differences in the use of violence by men and women, differences which she interprets as the result of social conditioning. She concludes that men typically use aggression as a means to secure dominance; women use it expressively, when stress and frustration have built up to a level which overcomes the social taboo against female aggression:

Forcing obedience through fear brings shame rather than satisfaction to most women. But because most men equate power with masculinity, they will attain it even at the price of another's fear.(51)

As moves are made toward increasing equality between men and women, in relationships and in the broader social, economic and political life of society, opportunities for conflict between old privilege and new expectations of partnership, may increase.(52)

3.4.2 Violence, Biology and Models of Masculinity

The National Committee on Violence noted that violent crime is dominated by men as perpetrators and, with the exception of sexual assault and 'domestic violence', as victims. However, the Committee was at pains to avoid the error of ascribing men's violence to the simple, biological fact of maleness. The Committee cited the work of Morgan (1989) and Connell (1989), who argue for different masculinities, some more, some less closely associated with violence. A major longitudinal study, the Australian Temperament Project, being conducted at the University of Melbourne, has found evidence consistent with the notion that the higher levels of aggression found in boys are attributable to the effects of socialisation.(53)

Braithwaite and Daly explore some types of male violence and the different models of masculinity which they reflect, for example violence toward men reflecting a masculinity of status competition and bravado among peers;rape and assault of women reflecting a masculinity ofdomination, control, degradation and humiliation of women; and other bad conduct reflecting a masculinity of unconnectedness or unconcernfor others.(54)They are concerned at the lack of a widely accepted model of male masculinity which abjures violence:

For men, status competition through physical force, domination-humiliation of the less powerful, and knowing no shame have substantial cultural support. Few societies today contain a majoritarian masculinity that sets its face against violence. In general, women's and men's social movements have failed to nurture credible competing non-violent identities for heterosexual men.(55)

3.4.3 Gender and Aggression in the Family

The socialisation of males as competitive, aggressive and dominant may create difficulties for them in intimate relationships, where they may experience a conflict between the need for intimacy and the need for control:

Raised to value autonomy and competition as cardinal virtues, men are expected to suspend these concerns in marriage in favour of intimacy and interdependence.

...the abusive husband cannot relinquish the nagging doubt that his dependence makes him vulnerable, and he uses aggression to reclaim control.(56)

Campbell attributes at least some of the violence between husbands and wives to the different ways boys and girls are socialised with respect to the demonstration of aggression:

Our society teaches boys to see aggression as an issue of interpersonal dominance, whereas girls learn that it is a failure of personal control.(57)

She argues that although men and women may exchange the same number of blows in the domestic context, the paths leading to aggression are very different. For men, challenges to authority in the home are critical. But in the home:

the delicate balance between women's self-control and level of stress is most likely to be upset.

...A woman misreads her husband's instrumental aggression as expressive, searching in vain for the source and the solution to his explosive irritation and, in so doing, placing increasing pressure on herself to modify her behaviour. A man misreads his wife's expressive anger as an attempt to usurp his power in the home. Her catharsis is mistaken for challenge, and he reacts to that challenge as men have traditionally done: by counterattack.(58)

Some studies have shown that at low levels of stress the rate of violent behaviour by wives was half that of men, but at the highest stress level, the rate was one and a half times higher than that of husbands. Women's violence is more likely to be less controlled and directed, ie more expressive of pent up anger than instrumental in achieving dominance.(59)

This work suggests that the socialisation of gender identities leaves both men and women inadequately equipped to deal with each other in resolving the stress and conflict of intimate relationships.

3.5 Family Conflict, Resources and the 'Cycle of Violence'

Family life can be characterised as inherently full of conflict, dealing as it does with the whole person and offering so many opportunities for differences of view on such sensitive issues as sex, money, parental or partner dominance.

A central focus of sociological analysis is the power relationships between family members and their role in conjunction with social institutions, in holding together family structures. Goode asserts that the greater an individual's resources (such as success and position outside the family, intelligence, relevant knowledge, friendship, and attraction), the more force he or she can command, but the less he or she will actually display.(60) According to this analysis, an individual's resources relative to other family members and the position of that individual in the family power hierarchy are important in determining his/her use of force.

Allen & Straus(61) found that male domination in a family was associated with violence only when the husband lacked other resources to validate this position of power - a finding that did not apply to middle class families, where the use of violence was less legitimate and thus more costly.

Another approach which looks at the dynamics of interaction in violent families has identified a so-called 'cycle of violence'. Some battered women have described a period of increasing tension between violent incidents. During this period verbal abuse precedes an attack, which can be precipitated by an apparently trivial incident. After the attack there may be a 'honeymoon period' in which the attacker expresses remorse, and a brief period of emotional intimacy before the cycle begins again.(62)

Violent behaviour is sometimes seen as being 'triggered' in the perpetrator by actions of family members against a backdrop of stress and habits of poor impulse control.

Paymar(63) criticises both 'cycle of violence' and the 'trigger' theories. Both emphasise the inevitability of an attack and ignore the fact that many perpetrators of family violence are not violent outside of the family environment. That is to say, violence occurs because of a deliberate decision, which appears to take into account the risks of retaliation by the victim and/or prosecution by the state.

3.6 The Social and Cultural Transmission of Violence in the Family

3.6.1 Societies Untroubled by Family Violence

Levinson examined the phenomenon of family violence in 90 small-scale, peasant societies.

Wife-beating was found to be the most common form of family violence, occurring in over 80% of societies. It occurred at least occasionally in all or nearly all households in nearly one in five of the societies studied, and in a minority of households in more than a third. Husband-beating was found in a majority of households in only 6.7% of the societies studied, and in a minority of households in 20.2%. In the remaining 73.1% of societies, it was rare or unheard of. Husband-beating occurred only in those societies where wife-beating also occurred, although the two did not always occur simultaneously. In four societies husband-wife brawling rather than partner-beating occurred.(64)

Sixteen of the societies examined in this cross-cultural study, could be described as:

essentially free or untroubled by family violence. In these societies spouses rarely or never beat each other, parents never or rarely physically punish their children, and siblings rarely fight with one another. In short, any physical violence between family members is considered to be abusive and a violation of social norms.(65)

The societies concerned included the hunter-gatherer Bushmen of the Kalahari, the Kurdish villages of Iran, Lapp herders of Scandinavia and the Papagao Indians of America's South West. The features distinguishing these societies from those with moderate to high levels of family violence were tentatively adduced to be fourfold:

  • First, spouses enjoy sexual equality with joint decision-making in household and financial matters, equal freedom to divorce for both men and women, and no double standard governing premarital sex;
  • Second, marriage is monogamous and the divorce rate relatively low, suggesting marital stability and emotional and economic dependence between spouses;
  • Third, disagreements between adults in the society are resolved peacefully through avoidance of conflict situations, mediation, or disengagement, rather than violently or through threats of violence;
  • Fourth, immediate outside help by neighbours who intervene or provide shelter is provided to family members who are victims or threatened with physical harm by other family members.

Other research has found that in societies built around the extended family, there are low levels of family violence.(66)

3.6.2 Social Legitimisation of Violence

Social and cultural norms in Australian and other similar societies legitimise the use of physical punishment of children by their parents. Straus & Smith consider this to be a critical part of the child's socialisation in violence:

...physical punishment teaches not only the empirical fact that love and violence go together, but also that it is morally right to hit other members of the family.(67)

Zeigert found that in Sweden, where physical punishment is prohibited, child abuse is relatively uncommon. Legal norms both express and reinforce social values. Role modelling of violent exchanges between parents is a further important influence:

The National Family Violence Survey shows that millions of children can directly observe and role model violence between husbands and wives.(68)

The pervasiveness of violence in American society is cited as a major obstacle to decreasing high levels of violence within families:

Violence, usually for socially desirable purposes, is woven into the fabric of American society. Socially legitimate violence includes physical punishment by teachers as well as parents, unnecessary use of force by the police, the death penalty, and the use of terrorism and military force against governments that are based on a different political philosophy.(69)

Baron & Straus(70) showed a correlation between high levels of 'legitimate violence'in American states and high levels of criminal violence in those states.

3.6.3 Violence in the Media

Increasing aggression and violence portrayed in the media are sometimes blamed for high levels of violence in the family and in society generally:

Violence portrayed in the media is often said to be a major cause of this increase. It is an alarming fact that the use and portrayal of violence in our society is widely accepted. Seventy per cent of people believe that it is acceptable for boys to engage in fist fighting while they are growing up.(71) Explicit depictions of violence appear in the media daily, and violent characters such as Mad Max and Rambo enjoy the status of folk heroes in our society.

There is a significant, though still inconclusive body of evidence to suggest that portrayals of violence do have the effect of both increasing our tolerance of violence and inciting aggression.(72)(73)

Some consider that there is already sufficient data to demonstrate the adverse impact of media portrayals of violence. Dr Melvin Sabshin, Medical director of the American Psychiatric Association referred to the:

Overwhelming evidence that violence in television programming can have a negative and severe behavioural impact on young people and adults.(74)

3.7. Battered Partners

The term 'battered woman' emerged in the seventies, used by a movement seeking to assist women who were victims of serious, persistent abuse. The name is a reference to a 19th century movement against wife beating.(75)

Some authors present persuasive evidence for considering battered partners - usually women - as special cases, remote from the continuum on which families which indulge in mutual, but seldom dangerous violence, can be located:

Whereas fighting may occur frequently without destroying the extended relations of family, community or cultural life, 'battering' appears only when persons have been forcibly isolated from their potentially supportive kin and peer relations and virtually locked into family situations where their objectification and continued punishment are inevitable.(76)

Paymar describes the approach taken in the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, which assists female victims:

The underlying philosophical framework of our definition of domestic assault is that a man batters his partner to control, dominate and punish. He derives his power from his physical size, male training and long standing beliefs and practices about a man's dominant position in the family. A man who batters is not out of control, but is firmly in control - his violence is intentional. His beliefs and attitudes are shaped by his family and culture of origin. His behaviour gets reinforced because he is able to silence an argument or control a situation seemingly without any consequences.(77)

In addition to actual and threatened violence, the tactics used by men who batter include: isolation from family and friends, sometimes to the extent that the telephone is removed or access to transport is denied; monitoring and stalking; removal of phones or transportation; intimidation, emotional and sexual abuse; and threats to remove the children:

A man who batters has an arsenal of abusive tactics at his disposal, with physical violence as the ultimate enforcer.(78)

There are many reasons why women can remain trapped in such relationships:

  • they fear the consequences to themselves or their children of leaving. Unfortunately, there are many documented cases of men who have carried out threats to kill wives and children who have tried to escape an abusive relationship;(79)
  • with limited economic resources or labour market experience they fear the effects on themselves and their children of living as a single parent, searching for suitable employment and accommodation;
  • exposure to abuse in adulthood, preceded in many cases by childhood abuse, has lowered their self esteem to the point where they become immobilised; and
  • problems with drugs and alcohol abuse, symptoms of depression or other mental illness. There is evidence that some to most of such problems arise following abuse.

There is strong evidence linking partner homicides committed by women to long periods of abuse.(80) In Kotinnen (unreported, SA Supreme Court, 30 March 1992) the South Australian Supreme Court accepted evidence of battered woman syndrome in support of a plea of self-defence and acquitted the defendant of murder. This was the first time that the syndrome had been admitted as evidence in a homicide case in Australia, although the admissibility of the syndrome as evidence had been established in Runjancic & Kontinnen(81), which relied heavily on the landmark Canadian decision in Lavalle.(82)

The battered woman's syndrome was developed by American feminists as a defence strategy, to lend support to the established defence of self-defence for women on trial for the murder of abusive husbands.(83) The strategy was designed to counter perceived bias on the part of male judges, inappropriately judging the women concerned from the perspective of the 'reasonable man'; against that standard the self-defence plea would fail in all but those case which fitted the pattern of actions considered reasonably necessary in self-defence:

The courts have had difficulties in recognising and fitting women's stories into the conceptual framework provided by this paradigm, and the rules relating to imminence, proportionality, serious harm and the duty to retreat have provided particular obstacles for female defendants.(84)

Campbell's work on the different paths to aggression typically taken by men and women (discussed above), and the abundant evidence that acts of 'domestic violence' against women offenders by their victims, have been trivialised or ignored by the legal system,(85) support the basic premise behind the battered woman syndrome, that a 'reasonable woman standard' is the only appropriate one in such cases. Moreover, the much higher rate of spousal homicide by men, in many cases notwithstanding attempts by their wives to obtain legal protection, indicates that many women would be realistic to assess the death of an abusive partner as the only hope of survival for themselves or their children.(86)

3.7.1 Battered Men

Cultural prejudice has impugned the intellectual respectability of researching the phenomenon of the battered man.(87) Nevertheless, studies of hospital emergency department statistics and the few surveys which have examined men's and women's experience of family violence,(88) indicate that there are battered men in Australia. There are reports suggesting that heterosexual and homosexual men may face special difficulties in disclosing partner violence and in gaining protection and support.(89) Systematic research is required to assess the frequency and patterns of violence against male partners.

3.8 Criminological Perspectives

Criminal violence is no less criminal when perpetrator and victim are members of the same family. However, the criminal justice system has been accused of failing in its response to men's violence against women in three major respects: perpetrators are not made accountable for their actions; those who are arrested and prosecuted, have probably developed entrenched behaviour as a result of getting away with it over a long period; and finally, victims of violence are 're-victimised by engaging the criminal process'.(90) These failures may well apply across the spectrum of family violence.

Much law enforcement work is motivated by an uncomplicated view of deterrence - that controlling crime is essentially a matter of increasing the costs of crime to the point where they will act as a deterrent to all rational individuals. In the case of family violence, isolation, which decreases the risk that an offender will be detected, and the costs to the victim of taking legal action against a family member, militate against the deterrent effects of any prescribed penalties.

Mandatory arrest of 'domestic violence' offenders had become increasingly common in the USA by the time Sherman(91) conducted a 'controlled' experiment on three different types of police intervention in the early eighties. Of the three treatments: arrest, separation and mediation, arrest was originally found to be the most effective in reducing subsequent violence. However, later evidence demonstrated that for a particular group of offenders, roughly characterised as an unemployed underclass, arrest can promote defiance rather than shame, and result in increased, not decreased, violence. Brehm and Brehm's concept of 'psychological reactance' provides a framework for understanding this phenomenon.(92)

To overcome the problem of defiance and the shortcomings of the criminal justice system in dealing with family violence, Braithwaite and Daly(93) advocate a regulatory pyramid of escalating enforcement responses to family violence offenders. This approach incorporates 'republican criminology' principles, which imply treating prison as a punishment of last resort, and promotes the concept of community control through community conferencing, a species of the 're-integrative shaming' described by Braithwaite.(94)

3.9. Putting it Together

Family violence is the subject of a large body of literature; this has been a sketchy treatment of a complex phenomenon. It has not dealt with the subject of violence against the elderly on which there is very little data at present, although there are signs that it being recognised as an area of concern.(95)

Some of the common themes which emerge from the empirical research and the theoretical analysis could be summarised as follows:

  • violence between family members results from an interplay of personal, family and socio-cultural factors;
  • in societies similar to ours, there are measurable risk factors associated with particular forms of family violence; as the number of risk factors present in a family increases, so does the likelihood of violence;
  • one of the most important risk factors is the child's experience of violence, as parental punishment or abuse, or as a characteristic of the relationship between parents;
  • the socio-cultural identification of masculinity with competitiveness and aggression and of femininity with submissiveness, is positively associated with family violence;
  • traditions of cooperative dispute resolution and equality between the sexes are associated with low levels of family violence;
  • the social isolation of the nuclear family removes an important restraint on the development of highly abusive relationships; and
  • social institutions, including hospitals and the legal system, provide important and as yet under-utilised mechanisms for detection of abuse and the initiation of intervention strategies.

Having acknowledged the many and varied influences which may contribute to violent behaviour, the National Committee on Violence concluded:

Essentially, it is the Committee's view that the experiences of childhood and the influence of the family are paramount in determining whether or not an individual becomes violent in his or her behaviour. We acknowledge that biological and personality factors may predispose individuals to violence, but strong evidence suggests that in almost every case a loving and secure environment can overcome such predispositions. Likewise, although alcohol, the media, peers and school may all exert their influence, what children observe and learn in their homes - what they come to recognise as norms of behaviour - will largely determine their reaction to these influences.(96)

Braithwaite argues that criminal behaviour needs to be understood in multiple contexts, and that different theories can supply useful metaphors for interpreting it, as well as stimulating the development of integrated strategies to address it:

Usually.........there will be multiple competing theories that supply useful interpretative metaphors. The crime is, at the same time, a seizing of an illegitimate opportunity, a response to blocked legitimate opportunity, taking advantage of a moral hazard, an assertion of macho independence, and so on. The art (rather than the science) of applied criminology is the gift of being able to perceive the multiple theoretical significances in a practical problem, thus bringing the practitioner to a nuanced understanding of the problem. This nuanced understanding, seeing the problem in many ways at once, seeing it through different theoretical prisms, enables an integrated strategy of problem solving.(97)

4. Can family Violence Be Stopped?

4.1 A Model Intervention Program?

The intervention program developed in Duluth, Minnesota, has been widely adopted as a model for assisting women who have been abused by male partners. It has been used throughout the United States and Canada, in Hamilton, New Zealand, and in pilot programs running in Western Australia and proposed in other states.

The following description is drawn from Paymar(98)

  • The Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project began in the early 1980's as a cooperative venture amongst nine community agencies including the police, the courts, women's shelters and mental health organisations;
  • Under the mandatory arrest policy the Police Department adopted in 1991, police called to the scene of a domestic assault, will arrest the alleged offender if they establish 'probable cause' that an assault occurred. Duluth was the first city in the US to adopt this policy and it led to a significant increase in arrests. Many other states have since followed suit;
  • An alleged offender is held in gaol for up to 36 hours before being arraigned. During that time a male volunteer from the project visits him to educate him about domestic assault, advise him about counselling and to assess the risk to himself or his partner on release. A no-contact order may form part of bail or pre-trial release conditions. Meanwhile, shelter advocates call or visit victims at home, providing information about the shelter, and how to obtain a protection order and legal assistance. Advocates also support women in their encounters with the justice system;
  • Charges will not be dropped, even at the request of the victim. The conviction rate is 80% and it has been achieved through the use of subpoena, victim advocates and rules for the introduction of certain evidence under exception to hearsay rules - critical because of the reluctance of battered women to testify at criminal hearings;
  • Criminal court judges sentence offenders to up to 90 days in gaol on a first offence misdemeanour charge. Penalties increase for further offences or violations of any protection order, which victims can obtain at the civil court. The jail sentence is usually stayed and the offender is placed on a year's probation subject to completion of a counselling program monitored by the Project. Civil court judges can also order perpetrators to Project counselling when issuing protection orders;
  • Probation officers present the court with a pre-sentence report, prepared after contact with victim, victim advocate, taking into account evidence of prior violence or substance abuse. They will supervise offenders for up to two years and offenders who fail to comply with probation conditions will have their gaol sentence imposed. Within 5 days of proceedings in the civil or criminal court, an offender must contact the Project for assessment and assignment to one of thirteen 29 week counselling/education groups. Failure to attend sessions or further violence mean the offender is returned to court;
  • Marriage counselling cannot be given until a perpetrator completes his program;
  • The victim may attend support/education groups conducted by the women's shelter. Short term and longer term housing are provided to those who need it by special women's groups;
  • Contact visits for children of parents who have been separated by violence, are arranged at the Project's Visitation Centre. It provides parenting classes to teach parents the importance of not using children as weapons;
  • The actions of all involved in the Project, including the Police Department, are monitored by the Project coordinators, so that, for example, arrest and investigation reports will be scrutinised to ensure police are complying with the mandatory arrest policy;
  • The Education/Counselling program used in the Project is 'Power and Control: Tactics of Men Who Batter' - now in use by over 300 programs throughout the US. It challenges beliefs about men, women and relationships and teaches skills for becoming non-violent and non-controlling.

Assessments of the success of the project vary. A survey on the mid 1980's, found that 80% of the women who had used the Project, the justice system, the Women's Coalition or law enforcement, were no longer being battered, but another survey indicated recidivism amongst offenders of 40 - 60 %. Many had battered the same partner, some a new partner, and some had had a new protection order taken out against them.(99) Sherman(100) says that these recidivism rates are comparable to those obtained in a program which involves arrest without counselling.

4.2 Looking for New Strategies

In his book,Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemmas, Sherman produces evidence, derived from a series of experiments in the American criminal justice system, that mandatory arrest for 'misdemeanor domestic assault' does not have a uniformly deterrent effect:

  • Arrest increases domestic violence among people who have nothing to lose, especially the unemployed.
  • Arrest deters domestic violence in cities with higher proportions of white and Hispanic suspects.
  • Arrest deters domestic violence in the short run, but escalates violence later on in cities with higher proportions of unemployed, black suspects.
  • A small but chronic portion of all violent couples produce the majority of domestic violence incidents.
  • Offenders who flee before police arrive are substantially deterred by warrants for their arrest, at least in Omaha.(101)

Sherman also found that even among chronic 'domestic violence' couples, homicide was difficult to predict and that protection orders probably ought to come with a warning as to their limited effectiveness.(102)

Far from counselling despair over these findings, Sherman makes a number of recommendations aimed at tightening up the enforcement system and making it 'smarter', including:

  • better coordination amongst agencies to improve the effectiveness of protection orders;
  • mandatory police action in response toprobable cause, offender-present misdemeanor assault, drawn from a range of options, including:
  1. offering to transport the victim to a shelter
  2. taking the suspect or victim to a detoxification treatment centre
  3. allowing the victim to decide if an immediate arrest should be made
  4. mobilizing the victim's social network to provide short term protection
  • offering victims a new identity in a different community in extreme cases;
  • experimentation with new responses, drawn up after regular consultation with community and professional groups.(103)

Australia does not at present have the same social stratification problems as the United States, but we do have pockets of chronic disadvantage. There is every reason to believe that similar patterns of 'defiance' to legal intervention occur here, and hence, that innovative approaches to a simple deterrence model are needed.

Family violence is a problem that requires an integrated response involving the community as well as a wide range of social institutions. It also requires the development of a range of appropriate responses from particular institutions. Braithwaite and Daly's(104) 'community conferencing', as part of a pyramid of control, with moral persuasion at its base and imprisonment at its apex, seems to be a strategy well worth testing. At the very least, it would not be ill-informed in the light of the available evidence.

5. What Are We Doing?

5.1 National Strategies

A number of national strategy documents embody approaches toward aspects of family violence such as violence against women or child abuse. Some of the most important are listed below.

The National Strategy on Violence Against Women (1993) has four main objectives:

  • provision of legal services and accommodation for women escaping violence;
  • promoting social disapproval of the use of violence in the community generally and acceptance that violence against women is a crime in all circumstances;
  • achieving equal access to justice for women and strengthening legal provisions as a means of promoting social change;
  • removal of barriers to the equal status of women in society and eliminating violence against them.

There has been substantial program activity directed toward achieving these objectives. For example:

  • all states and territories now have crisis accommodation and other support services for women victims of family violence and sexual assault. Moves have been made to assist women living in crisis accommodation to accomplish the transition to living independently. The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program is a joint Commonwealth/State initiative established in 1984. It funds a range of services including
    • safe and secure shelter;
    • counselling and crisis resolution; and
    • information, referral and advocacy.

About 12,000 persons are accommodated on any one night and, based on figures from the National Census of SAAP funded accommodation services 29 May - 12 June, 1994, about one quarter are women and children escaping domestic violence. The two week census 11-25 September 1994 found, on average over the period, 93.9% of all clients seeking accommodation services for women, were accommodated. Following a recent review, the special needs of accompanying children are to be examined. New services, including information and referral services are being developed in rural areas;

  • All states/territories have recently changed legislation to provide increased protection for women subjected to violence. All police services now acknowledge the need to emphasise the criminal nature of partner violence and all have special training for police to improve their effectiveness in dealing with it. Many state/territories now have 'portable' protection provisions and provide protection orders on a 24 hour basis;
  • The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is considering national criminal justice approaches to violence against women (including female genital mutilation) and are reviewing substantive law on intimidation, harassment and threats, to ensure adequate protection for victims. All states/territories have introduced or are working towards the introduction of 'anti-stalking' legislation;
  • The Justice Statement provides funding for the establishment of a network of women's legal centres, accessible by toll-free telephone, special services for Aboriginal women, and for outreach services for country areas;
  • Special initiatives to address violence against women in the context of the Family Law Act, include a pilot scheme within the relationship counselling service to develop ways of stopping violence, a pilot scheme for allowing access to children at Facilitated Handover and Visiting Centres, and amendments to the Act which deal with the issue of violence against women and children in the context of granting contact orders. A new 'family violence' policy aims to heighten family court staff awareness and ensure victims are offered the opportunity of separate counselling/mediation where appropriate;
  • Many states/territories have strengthened police search and seize provision with respect to weapons used in family violence incidents and there are moves to enable different jurisdictions to share information on firearms histories and domestic violence orders;
  • A three year community education program STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN finished in June 1995. Projects under this program were undertaken by 58 organisations. Two national programs were undertaken and gender awareness programs for the magistracy and the judiciary as well as AAT members, were funded. Also receiving funding were- an international conference on gender bias in law schools, and support for the Elimination of Gender Bias in Undergraduate Law Curricula. The 1995 survey of Community Attitudes to Violence Against Women indicated a decline in support for the use of violence by men against their partners, but indicated widespread concern about overall levels of violence in the community (cf section 2.3.1 above);
  • The Ministerial Council for Employment, Training and Youth Affairs is monitoring the implementation of a strategy dealing with such issues as gender equity, sexual harassment, child protection and behavioural management in schools; and
  • OSW has commissioned a paper on law reform in the area of sexual assault, seeking to identify reasons for the very high percentage of unreported sexual offences.
  • A survey of Australian women's concerns conducted in 1994 in preparation for the UN Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, identified violence as a major area of concern. On 29 August 1995 the Prime Minister announced a more integrated response involving collaboration with States and Territories and funding provided for pilot projects in marriage/relationship counselling.

The National Women's Health Programlists violence against women as one of its seven priority areas. Services for victims of sexual assault and an educational program designed to prevent the practice of female genital mutilation have received special funding.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission administers theNational Family Violence Intervention Programdeveloped in 1991 as part of the Commonwealth's response to the National Committee on Violence Report:Violence - Directions for Australia. The program, which was extended after its first review, will be subject to a further review at the end of 1995/96. Its major aim is to provide culturally appropriate services support to address family violence.

The National Goals, Targets and Strategies for Injury Prevention and Control(1994) has two goals in relation to injury from personal violence: reducing mortality and morbidity from interpersonal violence. The targets are at present restricted to reducing mortality (from homicide, child-abuse, and intentionally inflicted injury) because data bases for morbidity are not available. Many, if not most incidents of child abuse and partner violence, never find their way into official statistics, and we are a long way from developing state let alone national data bases, even on those incidents which result in attendance at hospitals or general practitioners.

Preventing Child Abuse : A National Strategy (1993)makes the case for a national strategy, citing inter alia, Australia's status as signatory to the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It sets out two goals: prevention of child abuse and creating an environment which supports families and communities and helps them to meet their responsibilities to care for and protect children.

The National Strategy set out 3 objectives for achieving these gaols:

  • Identify and change behaviours harmful to children and promote attitudes and behaviours which nurture and support children.
  • Identify and change factors which contribute to harmful parenting practices and create a community environment which better supports and assists adults in parenting children.
  • Teach children how to form non-exploitative relationships and teach them to develop emotional care and personal safely skills.

The sub-programs designed for pursuit of these goals cover public information and awareness, parenting programs, abuse prevention techniques for adults and children and the development of local intervention initiatives.

Violence against men was an issue considered at the First National Men's Health Conference held in August 1995.

5.2. Forthcoming ABS Women's Safety Survey

In newspaper articles during 1995 there was some criticism directed at the Office of the Status of Women for commissioning from the ABS a survey of violence against women,(105) (106)(107) primarily because the project, in pilot form, has been designed to collect data only on women's experience as victims of violence.

The Women's Safety Survey will collect information through private interview, by female interviewers, of a random sample of 6000 women aged 18 years and over, across Australia. The survey questions are designed to obtain information about women's fears concerning their physical safety and their experience of sexual and physical assault, the action they have taken in response to violence and its effects on them. The survey covers violence against women by both men and women. Participation in the survey will not be compulsory and confidentiality of the information will be protected.

A survey of women's experience and fear of violence sponsored by the agency tasked with examining those policies which affect the status and well-being of women, does not need any special defence. However, there is an obvious need for government to sponsor a parallel survey on men's experience of violence, and to sponsor research on family violence in all its forms.

Writing on abuse of the elderly, James concludes:

the connection between child abuse, spouse abuse and elder abuse needs to be explored thoroughly. Only by establishing these links and including these three factors in the incidence of family violence, is it possible to change attitudes and prevent any form of familial abuse from occurring.(108)

There are many dark areas in our knowledge of family interactions which only well-constructed surveys could illuminate. Some of them are even more taboo than violence against women, which has been forced out into the penumbra of social awareness. There is at present very little data on violence against the elderly, violence in homosexual relationships, and violence against children in families where spouse assault occurs.

5.3 Summing Up the Current Approach

The current approach is to treat different forms of family violence as different phenomena, to be addressed by different government ministries and social organisations. Although some action occurs at a national level and involves cooperation between federal and state governments, there is no single body charged with the coordination of information about family violence and programs to address it.

The absence of a national data base, or failing that, regular national surveys to establish base rates for family violence, precludes the assessment of progress toward any targets of violence reduction.

There has been a significant expansion in refuge and other special accommodation for women and children seeking to escape violence. Special services for migrant and NESB women have begun to appear in the capitals and larger cities, but there seems to be a long way to go in identifying and meeting the needs of those from Aboriginal and other cultural backgrounds.

Police ministers and attorneys-general are cooperating to make the criminal justice system more responsive and effective in dealing with family violence, but there is not yet a nation-wide policy to require police to take action in relation to any incident in which they have probable cause to believe that a violent offence has taken place between spouses.

Mandatory reporting of child abuse (in most States/Territories) has been an important step in the establishment of tertiary prevention strategies, ie. those which become operative when serious injury or abuse has already occurred. However, prohibition of corporal punishment, which would, together with a program to educate parents about alternative discipline techniques, constitute a valuable primary prevention measure, awaits a significant change in community attitudes. The institution of child discipline is for many still tied to corporal punishment, and held there by cultural or religious traditions.

The additional risk of child abuse to be found in families in which there is violence between the adults, does not appear to be addressed in the system providing services for adult victims. Missing early intervention opportunities not only means a prolongation of abuse in childhood, but an increased risk of passive or active involvement in an abusive relationship as an adult. In such cases individual privacy considerations must be carefully weighed against a collective duty of care: teachers and medical practitioners in particular are often in a position to detect signs of abuse and contribute to an alert system.

There has been some progress toward educating children in non-violent conflict resolution and addressing the issue of bullying at schools, and intervening to assist children who have witnessed or been victims of family violence. However, there has been little progress in changing the fundamental social modelling of competition and aggression as being both superior to cooperation and conciliation, and, essentially masculine characteristics. There is no widely accepted 'masculinity' of care and concern, nor is there a 'femininity' in which self-sacrifice and submission do not overwhelm assertiveness and self-interest.

Nor has there been much work done to educate children and young adults about equality in marriage, the skills of parenting, and the principle of equal responsibility for parenting and child care as a consequence of equal partnership. There is an urgent need for research on attitudes toward these concepts amongst people of different cultural backgrounds in the community.

Teachers and medical practitioners are well placed to diagnose the symptoms of most forms of family violence. There has been little progress in achieving a community-wide program to offer counselling and support to victims identified in this way. Even given the limited data on the extent of family violence in the community, it is clear that most goes undetected.

For most victims the negative consequences can be enduring and can be evident in subsequent risks of victimisation (mostly women), or violent behaviour (mostly men) and in drug and alcohol abuse.

6. What Else Can We Do?

In the light of the foregoing, the most promising avenues to pursue in order to combat family violence, seem to be:

1. Establishment of a national clearing house on family violence in all its forms, to coordinate data on base rates and information about programs.

2. Testing of a system of mandatory police action in response to family disturbance, with action in each instance being chosen from a range of alternatives including 'community conferencing', warrantless arrest of suspects on a 'probable cause' basis, removal of victims to refuges, and any other action approved after consultation with community and professional groups. Special attention should be given to strategies for protecting persons at risk from intimates who have exhibited a number of 'lethality indicators'.(109) All measures should be reviewed regularly in the light of evidence about their efficacy.

3. Development of a coordinated risk alert system, using information from individuals in a range of professions, especially medical practitioners, teachers and social workers, to recognise and report indications of family violence in both adults and children. The system should be used to achieve early intervention and thus pre-empt the establishment of chronic patterns of abuse. It should be oriented to the offering of services and support rather than punitive action in the first instance.

4. Development of a national awareness program promoting alternatives to corporal punishment of children, as a precursor to the earliest possible introduction of a national criminal code prohibiting corporal punishment.

5. Development of a national relationship skills/parenting skills program, for people wishing to marry or have children. Such programs should emphasise equality in marriage, conflict resolution techniques, sources of support in times of stress, and basic concepts of human rights, including the rights of the child. Appropriate programs should be developed for people from different cultural backgrounds, particularly for newly arrived immigrants.

6. Development of material on equality in marriage (including defacto relationships) as part of gender-equity material in school curricula. This should be supplemented by additional efforts to ensure that the media portray women and men in non-traditional gender roles, particularly adopting equal-parenting responsibilities and engaging in win-win negotiation styles, as both productive and respectful of the rights of others.

Some of the most important risk factors in relation to family violence concern poverty, disadvantage and alienation. Others concern the social isolation of the nuclear family in our society. Cross cultural studies on family violence indicate the importance of extended social networks both as a resource to alleviate the stress of child-raising, and as guardians against the development of persistently abusive relationships. It remains to be seen whether programs which do not address these issues can reduce the incidence of violence in families or the overall level of violence in the community:

The terrible irony ....is that the effectiveness of the criminal sanction may depend upon the strength of the social fabric in which it is used. The weaker that fabric becomes, the stronger the argument to use criminal sanctions in the first place: if the family cannot control the problem, let the police and prisons do it. But the weaker the social fabric becomes....the more danger there may be that criminal sanctions will fail or backfire by provoking anger rather than reintegration.(110)

Appendix 1 Family Violence: Some Data from Overseas

The UNICEF reportThe State of the World's Children 1995 says that assaults on women by their husbands or male partners may be the world's most common form of violence. The Extent of the problem in Australia is described on pages 11-14 of this paper. The UNICEF report refers to the results of surveys said to indicate that about a quarter of the world's women are violently abused in their own homes; community based surveys place the percentage even higher: up to 50% in Thailand; 60% in Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Korea; and 80% in Pakistan and Chile.(111)

This form of violence is reportedly the biggest single cause of injury to women in the United States, causing more hospital admission than rapes, muggings and road accidents combined.(112)

The magnitude of the problem in the US has been described as follows:

Domestic assault exacts a tremendous physical, psychological and economic toll on families and communities. In the US there are at least 4 million reported incidents of domestic assault against women every year. Almost 20% of these cases are aggravated assaults where women sustain serious injuries. In city after city we read the grave statistics of an angry or estranged husband killing a spouse and then often committing suicide.(113)

In 1992 US federal officials estimated the economic costs of this category of assault at $4 billion per year, as a result of lower productivity, staff turnover, absenteeism and excessive use of medical benefits.(114) The economic costs in Australia are discussed on pages 7 and 8.

1.1 Physical Violence in American Families: the Straus and Gelles Surveys

Straus and Gelles carried out National Surveys of Family Violence in 1975 and 1985 to obtain information about the incidence of violence in American families. They developed a special method of gathering data, the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) which:

made it possible to knock on the door of a random sample of households and be able to obtain data on the incidence and extent of violent acts between members of that household.(115)

Table A.1.1 The Conflict Tactics Scale

Minor Violent Acts            Severe Violent Acts             

1. Threw something            4. Kicked/bit/hit with fist      

2. Pushed/grabbed/shoved      5. hit, tried to hit with something                        

3. Slapped or spanked         6. beat up                       

                              7. threatened with gun or knife  

                              8. used gun or knife             


Table A.1.1 shows the categories of behaviour in that part of the Conflict Tactics Scale which deals with physical aggression. The questions in the scale begin with non-physical actions in response to conflict, and proceed from those generally perceived as legitimate to those considered less so. The format is designed to give the respondent the opportunity to demonstrate that the less acceptable responses to conflict are used only as a last resort, promoting higher response rates and more truthful responses. The CTS has been criticised for treating as equivalent within each category a range of actions whose motivation and outcome may differ markedly.(116) Nevertheless, the scale has been widely used in studies of family violence.

Only the 1975 survey was face to face. It achieved a 65% completion rate in a sample of 2143 families, compared with 86% of a sample of 6002 for the second survey, completed in a telephone interview. The authors speculated that the incidence of severe violence would be more likely to be under-reported in a face-to face than a telephone interview. However, they actually found a slight (but not statistically significant) overall decrease in reported violence in the second survey.

1.1.1 Physical Violence in American Families: Summary of the 1985 Survey

The following is primarily drawn from Straus and Gelles.(117)

  • any violence between husband and wife during previous year

16.1% of couples reported at least one physical assault by a partner during the previous year; 11.6% of husbands and 12.4% of wives committed at least one assault on their partner during the period. These rates did not represent a significant decrease on those found in 1975;

  • severe violence

3.4% of husbands and 4.8% of wives committed at least one act of severe violence (dangerous forms of assault such as punching, biting, kicking, choking, use of a weapon) on a partner in the previous year;

  • violence between husband and wife over course of marriage

couples in 28% of the 1975 sample and 30% of the 1985 sample had experienced at least one violent incident in the course of the marriage. In 39% of these incidents the assault was ' severe', ie went beyond slapping or throwing things;(118)

  • wives and husbands equally likely to assault partner

assaults by wives on their husbands occur at approximately the same rate as assaults by husbands on their wives and women initiate violence at about the same rate as men;

  • child abuse by parents

physical punishment is used by nearly all parents of young children (97% in the 1975 survey; 90% in 1985 sample). About 25% of parents start hitting their children before they reach the age of one; a minimum of 10% of children are victims of severe violence each year;(119)

  • child-child violence

the 1975-76 sample revealed very high rates of violence between siblings aged 3-17 (80% any violence; 5.3% severe violence) and substantial rates of violence by children in that age group towards their parents (18% any violence; 9% severe violence).

1.1.2 Interpreting the Data

There are a number of important considerations to keep in mind when interpreting the data from this study. First, it deals with incidence rates, and cannot be used to indicate the lifetime experience or prevalence of family violence in the community. Second, it has not dealt with sexual assault or emotional abuse. Although studies show both are highly correlated with physical violence, there is some evidence that, for some women at least, sexual assault and emotional abuse occur within a context in which physical violence is an ever-present threat, even if there has been only one occasion of actual violence.(120) For such women the obtained rates for physical violence could be substantial underestimates of the incidence of abuse. Third, the finding that, as measured on the CTS, wives and husbands engage in violent behaviour toward their spouses with virtually identical frequency, cannot validly be used to query the need for services to assist women victims. Straus and Gelles address this issue:

Although the two national surveys and the ten studies just cited leave little doubt about the high frequency of wife-to-husband violence, the meaning and consequences of that violence are easily misunderstood. For one thing, as pointed out elsewhere (Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz,1980:43), the greater average size and strength of men, and their greater aggressiveness (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974; Tavis & Offir, 1977), mean that the same act (for example a punch) is very likely to be very different in the amount of pain or injury inflicted (see also Greenblat, 1983). Even more important, a great deal of violence by women against their husbands is retaliation or self-defence (Saunders, 1986). One of the most fundamental reasons why some women are violent within the family, but not outside the family, is that the risk of assault for a typical American woman is greatest in her own home (Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz, 1980: chs. 1 &2). Nonetheless, violence by women against their husbands is not something to be dismissed because of the even greater violence by husbands.(121)

The authors acknowledge that drawing attention to violence by wives may prejudice attempts to deal appropriately with the violence of husbands. However, they maintain that:

the cost of denial and suppression is even greater because...even minor violence by wives greatly increases the risk of subsequent severe assault by the husband.(122)

preferring:

to confront the issue and attempt to eliminate all violence by women [as well as men]. This is beginning to happen. Almost all shelters for battered women now have policies designed to deal with the high rate of child abuse, and some are also facing up to the problem of wife-to-husband violence.(123)

Note that the developments described were taking place in refuges in the United States.

1.1.3 How Common is Chronic Violence?

'Violence' as defined by these researchers(an act carried out with the intention of or perceived intention of causing physical pain or injury),was found to be very common among American couples. Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz(124) concluded that over half experience one or more incidents of assault between the partners during the course of a marriage. Most assaults are minor, such as slapping, or throwing something, however:

  • over a third of these assaults are not minor, but involve actions which can cause very serious injury;
  • assaults are seldom isolated and the majority of partners who had experienced violence in the previous year reported several incidents;
  • there is evidence that minor assaults may escalate into more serious assaults and form part of a continuing pattern of severe violence;(125) (126)(127) and
  • the legitimisation of violence as a response to family conflict forms part of its transmission to the next generation.(128)

There is some dispute as to whether the severest manifestation of violence against women is qualitatively different from lesser forms. Straus and Gelles(129) considered the rate of 3.4% for 'wife beating', an under-estimate, with the true figure as much as double that (op.cit.:96). They also acknowledged the likelihood that their study, based on the general population rather than 'clinical' samples (eg. women in refuges), did not adequately represent the extent of violence suffered by women in the most abusive relationships.

In a 1986 study,(130) women who had used a shelter reported an average of 65 assaults per year. The Straus and Gelles study of 1985 found that amongst those women who had been assaulted by a husband or partner in the previous year, the average number of assaults was 6. Only 13 women in the sample had used a shelter and the average number of assaults amongst these women was just over 15. Only 4 women in their study had been assaulted as many as 65 times during the year.(131)

Straus considered the possibility that the extremely high levels of violence experienced by the women who go to refuges are so rare that very few of such cases would be identified even in a sample as large as 6002. However, he concluded:

A more plausible explanation is that cases of extremely high violence are underrepresented because high levels of violence are associated with other family problems. Regardless of the topic of the survey, individuals from multiproblem families living in poverty are difficult to interview. Even more important, couples experiencing frequent severe assaults probably have the highest rate of refusal. ...if half of these 16% (who refused to participate in the 1985 study) experienced high levels of violence, then the survey will have omitted more high violence couples than were included and perhaps the only couples for whom the frequency of assault matched that experienced by women in a shelter.(132)

1.2 Canadian National Survey of Partner Violence Against Women

In 1993 Statistics Canada undertook one of the world's largest surveys of violence against women. It was based on telephone interviews with 12,300 randomly selected women aged 18 and over, who were asked to report incidents of physical and sexual assault they had experienced since the age of 16:

Measures of violence for this survey were restricted to Criminal Code definitions of assault and sexual assault in order to capture violence as it is legally understood.(133)

Violence by partners (married and de facto) was measured according to a scale similar to the Conflict Tactics Scale used by Straus and Gelles (see 1.1 above), with the addition of sexual attack.

Strong efforts were made to ensure that the survey was designed to take into account the sensitivity of the subject: trained interviewers were employed, alert to cues that a respondent might be worried about being heard; toll free numbers gave respondents the opportunity to call back and confirm the accuracy of responses, or to continue the survey at a more convenient time and place; and contact numbers of local support services were provided to women who disclosed that they were currently experiencing abuse in a relationship. The resulting response rate was an exceedingly high 91% of those subjects with whom contact was actually made. In approximately 3% of households contacted, language prevented a response.

The major findings on the incidence and prevalence of violent experiences amongst Canadian women are summarised in Table A.1.2 below.

1.2.1 Incidence and Prevalence

Table A.1.2. Canadian Survey On Wife Assault

Major findings

*3% of currently married women had been subjected to physical or sexual assault by their partner in the 12 months prior to the survey

*29% of currently or previously married women had at some time been assaulted physically or sexually by a partner

  • 15% of women had been assaulted by their current partner
  • 48% of previously married women had been assaulted by their former partner

*8% of currently or previously married women had at some time been sexually assaulted by a partner

  • 2% of women had been assaulted by their current partner
  • 17% of previously married women had been assaulted by a previous partner

*33% of those women who were assaulted by a partner feared for their lives at some point in the relationship

  • 13% of those women who reported violence in a current relationship feared for their lives at some point (representing 130 000 Canadian women)
  • 45% of those women reporting violence by a former partner had feared for their lives at some point

*21% of women reporting partner violence had been assaulted during pregnancy

  • 40% of these women reported violence as having started during pregnancy
*45% of partner assaults resulted in injury and medical attention was sought in about 40% of those cases. Injuries were:
  • bruises 90%
  • cuts, scratches, burns 33%
  • broken bones 12%
  • fractures 11%
  • internal injuries and miscarriages almost 10%

Notes:

  1. 'Married' includes defacto relation ships.
  2. These estimates are expected to be within 1.2% of the true population proportions 19 times out of 20.

The survey shows how widespread the experience of male partner violence is among Canadian women - nearly 3 in 10 of those who have ever been in a defacto or married relationship have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual assault by a partner.

It also demonstrates that the life-time experience, or prevalence, of partner violence is much greater than the incidence, or annual rate - in this study only 3% of women reported partner assaults in the previous year, whilst 29% had experienced partner assault at some time in their lives.

Violence was seldom confined to an isolated incident - nearly 66% of victims had been assaulted on more than one occasion. Some women had been subjected to multiple assaults (41% of women with a previous partner and 10% of those living with an abusive partner). Pushing/ grabbing/shoving was the most frequently reported form of violence (25% overall), but was seldom reported on its own. A small percentage of women, 4%, reported only the threat of being hit with something; 9% reported having been beaten, 7% choked and 5% threatened or attacked with a gun or knife. The survey also examined the relationship between physical and emotional abuse, finding that both forms were commonly found together :

  • 35% of currently or previously married women had at some time been emotionally abused by a partner;
    • 17% had been emotionally abused by their current partner; and
    • 59% of previously married women had been emotionally abused by a former partner.
  • three quarters of women reporting physical or sexual abuse also reported emotional abuse;
    • 18% of those who did not report physical violence, reported emotional abuse.

The forms of emotional abuse included possessive behaviour, denial of access to family income and verbal put-downs.

1.2.2 The Cycle of Violence Over Generations

Some research suggests that childhood witnessing of violent assault against one's mother means an increased likelihood of being an abused (for women) or abusing (for men) partner in adulthood.(134) The Canadian survey found that:

Women whose fathers-in-law were violent endured more severe and repeated types of violence than women whose fathers-in-law were not violent. Fifty-five percent of women whose partners had witnessed violence reported that their own partners were violent on more than one occasion, compared to 35% of women whose partners had not witnessed violence. Women with violent fathers-in-law were more likely to be injured (29%) than women whose fathers-in-law were not violent (16%). With respect to type of assault, women with violent fathers-in-law were more frequently beaten, choked or hit than were other victims of wife assault.(135)

Given that children witnessed assaults in 39% of violent marriages, the risk of creating a cycle of violence which is handed down through generations, is of real concern. Victims were much more likely to seek assistance from the police or social support services, and much more likely to leave their partner in those cases where children had witnessed an assault on them.(136)

1.2.3 The Demographics of Victim and Offender

Age, length of marriage, low income and disability all affected a woman's risk of violence.

The survey found a small difference between rates of assault for marriage and common law marriage. The most recent partnerships were those at greatest risk. Those of two years and under reported the highest rates of violence in the preceding year (8%), while those of over 20 years had the lowest rates (1%) - very likely a result of age, the single factor most highly correlated with the risk of violence. Women in the age group 18 to 24 years reported a rate of assault 4 times higher than for the population as a whole.

In Canada a woman's education level did not appear to affect her risk of assault, but income levels below $15 000 per annum were associated with a doubling of the overall rate. Disabled women and women with a disabling health problem reported higher life-time rates of physical or sexual assault: 39% Vs 29% for the whole female population.(137)

Age, education level and alcohol consumption affected a male partner's rate of violence.

Violent male partners were over-represented in the 18-24 year age group (13% Vs 3% for all ages). Men with university level education had the lowest rates of violence against their partners, and employment status did not seem to make any difference. Alcohol consumption seemed to be significantly related to rates of assault:

In one half of all violent partnerships the perpetrator was usually drinking. The rate of wife assault for women currently living with men who drank regularly (at least four times per week) was triple the rate of those whose partners never drank. Women were at six times the risk of violence by partners who frequently consumed five or more drinks at one time, compared to women whose partners never drank.(138)

1.2.4 Victims' Use of Drugs and Alcohol

About one quarter of women who are in or have been in an abusive relationship, reported using drugs, alcohol or medication to help them cope. Victims of emotional abuse were more likely to use alcohol or drugs to cope (31%) as were women who had been injured by violence (41%). Rates of alcohol and drug use were highest among women who had been victims of violence in a previous relationship. Alcohol use for women previously in a relationship with a violent partner was 15%, compared with 8% for women currently with a violent partner. Twelve per cent of women previously in a relationship with a violent partner used drugs or medication Vs 4% currently with a violent partner. Differential rates may reflect different levels of overall exposure to violence.(139)

Canada has introduced a wide range of treatment programs for men who abuse their partners. In 1994 there were 124 such programs in operation across Canada (Health Canada, 1994).

1.2.5 Assistance for Victims

In the early 1980's Canada introduced mandatory charging policies in relation to cases of spouse assault. This was designed to encourage reporting by victims by increasing the rates at which such cases resulted in the laying of charges and prosecution by the crown.(140) According to the survey, 26% of assault cases were reported to the police. Women were more likely to report cases to the police when children had witnessed violence, when the assault resulted in injury, was part of a frequent pattern, or a weapon had been used.(141)

Twenty two percent of the women who reported violence in the survey, had never before revealed it to anyone. A substantial proportion of them (18%) had been injured and 15% had experienced more than one episode; ten percent had feared for their lives at some time.(142)

Of those women who contacted the police, half said they were satisfied with the police response. Police responded in person in 84% of these cases, a charge was laid in 28% and a little under 25% of offenders appeared in court. Violence decreased or stopped after police intervention in 45% of cases; in 40% there was no change; and in 10% violence actually increased.(143)

Women who had experienced violence relied most heavily on their friends and family for support. Twenty four percent used a social service and 6% stayed at a transition house. Those who had contacted the police were much more likely to have used a social service (49%) than women who had not (19%).(144)

1.3 New Zealand Survey

The New Zealand Department of Justice recently released the report entitledHitting Home. The report is based on a survey of 2000 men undertaken in March 1994. It found physical and emotional abuse of female partners to be very common:

  • one in five men physically abused their partner in preceding years; one in three expected to at some point in the relationship;
  • in the preceding year, the reported incidence of physical violence was:
    • pushing/grabbing/shoving 15%; slapping 7%; throwing objects 6%; forced sex 2%; kicking and hitting 2% and choking/strangling/beating 1%;
  • over the course of the relationship, the reported prevalence of physical violence was:
    • pushing/grabbing shoving 25%; slapping 16%; throwing objects 12%
  • the reported incidence of emotional abuse in the preceding year was 50%, with the most common forms being insults, swearing, put-downs, stopping a woman doing what she wanted to do and smashing or hitting something;
  • there was a clear relationship between seriousness of abuse and agreement with the statement: 'Women should concentrate on being good wives and mothers rather than on their rights.'; and
  • levels of anger found in New Zealand men were high compared with those obtained in international studies.

The report concluded that New Zealand men displayed 'an underlying condoning of both physical and psychological abuse in relationships' in contrast to their apparently liberal views concerning the position of women in society.(145)

Appendix 2 Studies of Family Violence in Specific Australian Communities and Groups

2.1 Pregnancy and Partner Abuse

A study conducted at the Brisbane Royal Women's Hospital(146) found that almost 9% of a sample of over 1000 pregnant women attending a prenatal clinic had been abused by a former or current partner during pregnancy. Almost 30% said they had been abused at least once since the age of 16: Table A.2.1 below shows the proportion reporting different types of abuse. The definition of abuse included pushing/ shoving/slapping, emotional and psychological abuse. Most of the women reporting abuse indicated more than one category; 4.7% ticked all categories.

Table A.2.1. Proportion of Women Abused Since the Age of 16

No abuse                                         70.3%         

Pushing, shoving, slapping                       23.5%         

Emotional abuse (includes verbal abuse being     21.2%         
allowed no money, being kept away from                         
family/friends)                                                

Kicking, biting, hitting with fist               13.2%         

Damage to property or pets                       12.0%         

Throwing objects to intimidate                   11.2%         

Serious threat to life                            5.8%         

Choking, Strangling                               5.6%         

Sexual abuse                                      5.3%         

Using a knife, gun or other weapon                3.7%         

Note:

  1. multiple responses allowed
  2. n= 1014
  3. only 30 of 301 women reported psychological or emotional abuse in isolation.

Other studies have found rates of abuse during pregnancy ranging from 3.8% to 17%.(147) (148)(149) The authors concluded that their study supported the findings of some other researchers that pregnancy may serve as a trigger for the initiation or escalation of partner abuse.(150) This conclusion is disputed by Gelles who found that being in the highest risk age group rather than pregnancy per se accounted for the high rates of violence experienced by pregnant women. However, Gelles noted that violence experienced during pregnancy tended to differ in form from that experienced at other times:

Although our data do not confirm the hypothesis that pregnant women are at higher risk of being hit and abused, the sad fact is that pregnant women enjoy no special relief from the threat of violence either. Clinical and descriptive research suggest that the nature of the attacks changes when victims are pregnant and that women are often hit in the abdominal area. The vulnerability of pregnant women and their unborn children is sufficient to confirm the recommendation that health service personnel and agents of social control should be prepared to provide effective treatment and prevention strategies for these women.(151)

The clinical and psychological implications of abuse during pregnancy were of special concern to Webster et al. :

Because domestic violence has remained an unidentified pregnancy event at our hospital, its potential to influence the well-being of mother and foetus has not been considered. Other studies have linked foetus death, prematurity and low birthweight-for-dates with domestic violence.(152)

They recommended improved training for medical staff in this area and the inclusion of questions about relationships in any medical history.

2.2 Monash University Study of Injury Data

Monash University's Accident Research Centre was commissioned by the Victorian Department of Health and Community Service to undertake an exploratory study of injuries attributable to family violence.(153) The study approached the subject from an epidemiological perspective:

Domestic violence represents a challenge to epidemiology because its parameters are not well defined, its severity is highly subjective, its causes are poorly understood, and its psychosocial consequences are often linked in very complex ways to physical events. Epidemiological studies to provide reliable prevalence data on domestic violence can facilitate the determination of unmet health and service needs.(154)

The ultimate aim of this approach is to enhance scope for intervention and prevention through identifying the patterns and indicators of family violence. Part of the brief was to detect possible barriers to the recognition and recording of abuse by medical staff.

The study involved an examination of records on three data bases: the Coroner's Facilitation System (CFS) for data on fatalities; hospital emergency department records on the Victorian Injury Surveillance System (VISS) data base; and the Victorian Inpatient Minimum Database (VIMD). The following definition of 'domestic violence' was employed:

partner violence resulting in injury in those aged 15 years and over, occurring both within and outside the home.(155)

Positive incidents of 'domestic violence' were defined as:

those who present with injuries that were directly attributed to assault by an intimate or former intimate (husband, wife, defacto, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner) .

Probable incidents were:

those where injuries to a person were not recorded to be the result of an assault, but they were hit punched, kicked, stabbed, shot etc, and the injuries were not sustained in street assault, an anonymous mugging or robbery.

Suggestive cases were:

those cases whose explanations did not account for, or were inconsistent with the injury sustained.(156)

2.2.1 Results of Monash Study

From the 53 320 cases of injury presenting at the emergency departments of the four hospitals in the study (Western Hospital, Latrobe Valley Regional, Royal Melbourne and Preston & Northcote Community), 367 positive or probable cases of partner inflicted injury were identified - 0.7% of all adult injury cases.

Positive 'domestic violence' cases constituted 0.6% of all the adult violence presentations and were five times more likely to be female than male. A higher proportion of male victims were admitted to hospital (24% of the 49 positively identified male cases versus 8% of the 239 female cases), primarily because of the greater incidence of knife and puncture wounds among the men. Nevertheless, the preponderance of admissions were female -72% versus 28% male - because of the much higher overall rate of female presentations.

The authors noted the possibility that substantial numbers of men had been excluded from the positive category because insufficient detail had been included about a 'domestic' injury.(157) These cases were subsequently included in the probable category, which finally contained 93 males and 309 females.

Questions arise about the validity of the technique used to derive the number of cases in the suggestive category for males. Having derived an estimate using the same methodology as for females, the researchers obtained what they considered an unreasonably large figure. They decided to replace it with a new estimate calculated by dividing the number of suggestive female cases by five on the assumption that the ratio of male to female positive cases should also apply among suggestive cases. This resulted in a reduction of male suggestive cases from 767 to 52! The original, much higher, figure may indicate unwillingness among male patients to disclose partner violence as a cause of injury - a possibility which merits further investigation.

Most positive presentations were in the age group 20-29, declining steadily thereafter. Differences in injuries between presenting men and women victims were summed up as follows:

There were very clear differences between male and female partner inflicted violence. Women were more likely than men to become victims in their own home, to have been injured by being hit by their partner or by hitting against something and to suffer bruising and inflammation, especially to the head. Men were more likely to be admitted to hospital indicating that their injuries were probably more severe. They far more frequently than women were lacerated or punctured by knives, especially to the head and arms.(158)

2.2.2 Substantial Underdetection by Medical Staff

The authors of the Monash study calculated, on the basis of the proportion of total cases which were probable or suggestive only, that about 70% of partner violence cases go undetected in the hospital system. The real percentage may be larger, as there was evidence that failure to complete hospital admission forms was more common in 'domestic violence'cases (54%) than for injury cases overall (37%).(159) With the assistance of medical records, data was obtained on at least 85% of all injury presentations for the study.

The authors concluded that their figures were a substantial underestimate of the incidence of domestic violence in the community. Even summing the positive, suggestive and probable cases yields 2% of the total injury presentations - much lower than the proportion obtained in some inner city emergency departments in the United States, as reported, for example, by Stark et al.,(160) who estimated that half of all injuries to women result from partner abuse.

A Brisbane telephone survey(161) found that 50% of partner violence victims attend GPs and only 10% go to hospital casualty departments. However, it would be dangerous to conclude on this basis that the figures obtained in the Monash study are significantly smaller than incidence of injury from partner violence in the community - in metropolitan areas some groups are known to use casualty departments in preference to general practitioners.

2.2.3 Self-Inflicted Injury, Usage of Support Services and Family Violence

There is some evidence that attempted suicide and other self inflicted injury, as well as dependency on drugs and alcohol are not only associated with family violence, but frequently consequences of it.(162) In this study the data on suicide and self-inflicted injury for persons 15-50 years on the VISS suggested to the authors a need for further research on a possible link with family violence.

Hospital records for positive 'domestic violence' cases and a control group were examined for evidence of the degree to which non-medical services, such as social, legal and community support agencies, had been utilised by the two groups. Despite some shortcomings in the reliability of the record system, significant differences between the groups were found, with the 'domestic violence' victims having much higher utilisation rates than controls.

2.2.4 Homicide

Deaths recorded on the Victorian CFS data base for financial years ending in 1990 and 1991 were used to determine the rates of spousal violence resulting in death. The proportions of 'assaultive' deaths due to partner violence were 71% and 42% respectively for women, and 3% and 2.4% respectively for males. Although the overall percentage of assaultive deaths due to partner violence was low, women constituted 90% of the 30 victims in the two year period. This is roughly consistent with Strang's(163) finding that 85% of partner-violence homicide victims in Australia were women.

2.3 Emergency Ward Studies

In the last few years there have been several other studies of the prevalence of partner violence, primarily against women, amongst hospital emergency ward patients. The results of some studies are summarised below.

Cuthbert(164) found that 38% of the female trauma victims attending the Accident and Emergency Department at St Vincent's Hospital had been assaulted in their own homes and that 'domestic arguments' were the second largest cause of injury leading to admission'.

Roberts(165) administered questionnaires to 985 people attending the Emergency Department at the Royal Brisbane Hospital during a random selection of nursing shifts which covered the full range of attendance hours.

'Domestic violence' was defined as covering interactions between family members as well as past and current, intimate relationships and to consist of persistent abuse of an adult 16 years of age or over, during or after a family or close relationship where one partner was afraid of and/or being hurt physically by the other;

The study found that 23.3% of the women and 6.3% of the men had experienced 'domestic violence'. Men and women were equally likely to report childhood abuse, but women were much more likely to report abuse as both adult and child. Women were more likely to suffer violence at the hands of a spouse, boyfriend or defacto, men by spouse, defacto, father or brother;

Those who suffered abuse as children were 4.33 times more likely to report domestic violence than those who did not. The group who experienced violence as both child and adult were more likely to suffer more severe forms of violence. The percentage of male and female victims suffering various forms of abuse, which included the CTS categories as well as emotional and sexual abuse, was significantly different for only one category - sexual abuse, which was more prevalent among female victims. Statistical analysis revealed no greater risk of family violence for those born overseas than for those born in Australia.

Bates(166) interviewed women attending the Accident and Emergency Department of a large teaching hospital in Newcastle. Emotional, psychological and economic abuse as well as threats, and both major and minor assault were defined as 'domestic violence'. Twenty six per cent of respondents were found to have experienced domestic violence at some time. Pushing, beating and sexual abuse were the most common forms.

Considering the evidence from their own and earlier studies, Bates et al. drew some conclusions about partner violence against women in Australia and the need for medical staff to play a role in early recognition and intervention:

Women are likely to experience a range of injuries, probably involving bruising to the face or head. Victims are more likely to be those with no private medical cover and divorced or separated. Most of these women do not seek help for their injuries or for the violent situation but are unable to return to normal activities for over a week. Many of the incidents involve weapons, alcohol and/or sexual assault. It is therefore evident that there is a need to encourage women who experience domestic violence to seek professional help. If improved training of health care workers in assisting victims could be provided, it is also likely that effective detection and management of domestic violence would occur.(167)

2.4 Studies by Religious Groups

In 1993 an Action Group from the Brisbane Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church and the Department of Psychology at the University of Queensland undertook a joint study to investigate, inter alia, attitudes towards and incidence of abuse, types of abuse and characteristics of abusers.(168)

Questionnaires were completed by 766 men and 1284 women who attended Mass in Catholic Churches. The sample was older, more highly educated and contained more females than the general population. Several categories of abuse were recorded: physical (Conflict Tactics Scale as described in Appendix 1.1, plus threat to children), sexual, emotional and economic.

More than one in three women and almost one in four men reported having been abused at some time by someone close to them. Approximately 5% of both women and men reported abuse as having occurred in the previous year. Women were more likely than men to report childhood sexual abuse, but otherwise the proportions of men and women reporting different categories of abuse were not significantly different. The majority of reported abusers were male. Whereas 10.6% of men reported that it would be acceptable to use force against a spouse in one or more circumstances, only 6.5% of women were of this view. The corresponding figures obtained by the Public Policy Research Centre five years earlier were 22% for men and 17% for women. One percent of respondents reported abuse by a member of the clergy.

An earlier study of 1700 church women found that one in four Anglican and one in five Uniting Church women had been abused at some time in their lives by someone close to them.(169)

2.5 Violence in Aboriginal Communities

A family violence worker in the Kimberley area has been quoted as saying that an indigenous woman is 33 times more likely to die from domestic violence than anyone else in Australia.(170) The Report of the Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force,Beyond These Walls(1988) reports levels of family violence within Aboriginal communities of up to 90%, with victims unwilling to seek assistance from police or use refuges.

Obtaining data for Aboriginal communities is even more difficult than it is for the rest of the population because:

Aboriginal women are less likely to report family violence, particularly to the police, whom they often distrust. They are reluctant to use culturally inappropriate support services, and in remote communities they may not have access to culturally relevant services.(171)

In a number of communities the number of Aboriginal women who have died as a result of assault exceeds the number of deaths in custody in the relevant states. The National Committee on Violence(172) was advised that in 1987 Aboriginal women were victims in 79% of deaths involving chargeable offences in the Northern Territory, where Aborigines make up 25% of the population. Atkinson expressed the view that violence has become endemic in Aboriginal society:

violence is now everywhere in modern Aboriginal society. It is so far reaching that it has become a fact of everyday life and has affected the relationship between men, women and children. On some communities it has reached a level that women expect to be bashed and, in fact, do not think that their 'bloke'loves them unless he belts them. Children are also being abused - something so foreign to Aboriginal culture that it shows the extent to which communities are in total social crisis.(173)

In a study of 1993 police records, the Crime Research Centre of the University of Western Australia found that Aborigines were vastly over represented in reported cases of domestic violence in the state, being 53.1 times more likely than non-Aborigines to be victims of 'domestic violence'.(174) This was consistent with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey finding that 45.1% of Aborigines regard family violence as a problem in their local area.(175)

A one night survey of Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) clients found that 20% of those accommodated in services for women and children escaping domestic violence were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent compared with 10% of clients overall.(176)

2.6 Family Violence in Ethnic Communities

There has been no detailed work on the prevalence of family violence amongst different ethnic groups in Australia. As mentioned above (cf 2.3), Roberts(177) found no difference in risk for the overseas born and Australian born. The usage rate of Victorian refuges by persons of Non English Speaking Background (NESB) has been reported as being in proportion to their numbers in the community.(178) The census of SAAP clients referred to above found that 15% of clients accommodated in services for women and children escaping domestic violence, were NESB, compared with 9% of clients overall.

A recent study of crisis services in the ACT, found that NESB clients constituted a disproportionately high percentage of users: according to 1991 Census figures they constituted 16% of the ACT population, but they made up an estimated 26% and 27% of clients for the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and SAAP, respectively, despite evidence of unmet need amongst this group caused by barriers to access.(179) Family violence (including adult son to father, adolescent son to mother, spouse abuse, and abuse of daughter by father) was a major cause of referral to SAAP. The author noted that Indo-China, South America and the former Yugoslavia, countries from which recent waves of refugees have been drawn, were prominently represented amongst the service's clients. She noted the particular stresses on refugee families over and above those faced by all NESB migrants, such as cultural dislocation and inter-generational conflict.

An investigation of 'domestic violence' amongst ethnic communities in Perth concluded that it was a pattern of behaviour occurring long before settlement, possibly exacerbated by the tensions and stresses of migration, but not caused by it. The subject was traditionally taboo, with many women reluctant to come forward, only doing so after another family member had been injured. Generally women became less reluctant to report violence the longer they had lived in Australia and the greater their understanding of their rights in Australian society. Focus on the issue as one of female victim-male perpetrator, was considered less useful than considering the whole family in context.

Evidence of abuse among women sponsored for migrant entry to Australia, particularly those in intercultural marriages whose partners had sponsored a series of wives,(180) has led the Government to make changes to the Migration Regulations. Women in abusive relationships are not obliged to remain in them in order to meet the normal two year qualifying period for permanent residence. The July 1995 changes widen the range of evidence which women can provide in order to substantiate a claim of abuse.

The Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research recently released a report on partner violence against NESB women. The report is largely based on case studies; it attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain data on the incidence of this form of violence, but encountered difficulties in obtaining data.

Given that the incidence of systematic as opposed to occasional abuse may be relatively rare in the community, large samples would be necessary to study its incidence and prevalence in particular social groups. The grouping together of all NESB or overseas born may conceal differences amongst sub-groups which only major surveys could reveal.

2.7 Violence in Homosexual Relationships

One estimate is that 25% of relationships in the gay and lesbian community are affected by partner violence.(181) Sexual abuse councillor in NSW, Gerard Webster, says that many male homosexual victims of abuse, have difficulty in openly acknowledging what has happened:

They don't feel comfortable talking about it. I guess like women in the '50s who were assaulted, they blame themselves or see it as something that just happens.

Women, today, know it is not right and there is a support system out there to help them stop it. The trouble is gay men and lesbian women don't yet feel the same.(182)

Director of Education for Relationships Australia, Dr AJC Brown says men, regardless of sexual orientation, feel reluctant to seek outside help:

It is hard for men to get involved in counselling per se. They have this idea men are supposed to be in charge. They are supposed to be able to deal with their own life. So asking for help is often difficult.(183)

2.8 Child Abuse

The National Committee on Violence reported that infants up to the age of twelve months constitute the age group at greatest risk of violent death.(184) A national study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare(185) showed that reported cases of child abuse are increasing. This may well be as a result of improvements in reporting rather than an increase in base rates. Some of the major findings of the study are summarised below:

  • reported child abuse and neglect cases rose by 10.0% in 1992-3;
  • substantiated cases of risk and abuse have risen 5% a year for the last four years;
  • children aged 13 and 14 years constituted the largest group of substantiated cases of abuse/neglect;
  • 77% of sex abuse victims were female, but both sexes were equally at risk of abuse and neglect;
  • natural parents were responsible in more than two thirds of abuse/neglect cases;
  • 64% of cases reported by medical staff and 60% reported by the affected child were substantiated; and
  • 9% of substantiated cases involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, a group less than 2% of the population.

In July 1995 a report commissioned by the National Child Protection Council was released. It cited surveys which showed more than 80% of the community approves of the physical punishment of children and recommended that Australia introduce legislation prohibiting corporal punishment, as have the Scandinavians (in the eighties), Cypriots and Austrians (1989). In Australia 'lawful correction' or 'reasonable chastisement'may still be used by parents as a defence to a charge of assault against a child in their care. Some parents cited in the study, invoked religious or cultural traditions of physical chastisement. Many parents appeared to find physical punishment natural, and were ignorant of the relative effectiveness of physical as opposed to non-physical techniques of discipline.(186)

Tomison(187) presents evidence that child abuse frequently occurs in a context of family violence.

2.9 Recent Publication: a General Practice-based Study of the Prevalence of Physical and Emotional Abuse Among Women Patients

A study published in early 1996 attempted to establish base-line data for emotional and physical abuse of women.(188) The population studied were women consulting a general practitioner at any of fifteen practices in the Melbourne Metropolitan region, selected in a two stage random sampling design to be "broadly representative of all social classes".(189) The response rate among the 3026 women asked to complete the questionnaire was 72%.

The subjects were asked to complete a Conflict Tactics Scale (see Appendix 1.1 for a description of the actions which are classified as minor and major violence in that Scale), with additional questions concerning emotional abuse and the frequency of each tactic in the preceding year. They were also given questions on the experience of sexual abuse, adult and child, and physical abuse as a child.

Only those women currently in a relationship were asked to complete the questions concerning violence or emotional abuse by a partner in the previous year. Findings were as follows (where sample size "n" and 95% confidence intervals "CI" are available, they are shown):

  • 22% (n=1494, CI= 18% - 27%) had experienced physical violence;
  • 22% (n=1493, CI=18% - 26%) had experienced minor violence (women's partner threw an object at her, or pushed, grabbed, shoved or slapped her);
  • 10% (n=1493), CI=7%-12%) had experienced severe violence (woman's partner had kicked or bitten her, hit her with a fist or object, choked or threatened her with a gun or knife, or used a gun or knife against her);
  • 20% (n=1500, CI=16%-24%) had experienced emotional abuse: 4% had their partner threaten to kill them; 8% had money withheld; 7% were prevented from leaving home; 6% were stopped from leaving family or friends or speaking to them on the phone; and 17% were constantly called names or humiliated;
  • 28% (n=1500, CI=24%-34%) had been either physically or emotionally abused.

These incidence figures are substantially higher than those reported in other Australian studies and are higher than the annual incidence figures reported in the Canadian and United States surveys in Appendix 1 (3% and 11.6% respectively), despite the fact that the Conflict Tactics Scale was a common feature of all studies. A 10% annual incidence of severe violence is more than double that found by Straus and Gelles in their United States study (cf Appendix 1.1.1). These differences warrant closer analysis, as levels of violence in Australia are commonly assumed to be far below those in the States. In particular, the adequacy of the Conflict Tactics Scale as an instrument for identifying unacceptable use of force, needs examination. The possibility of bias in the sample selection is a perpetual problem in relation to such surveys; but it is not clear whether the 28% who did not complete the questionnaires would have been more likely to have been victims or non-victims of violence or abuse. A useful feature of ABS surveys is their regular practice of surveying a sample of non-responders to check for bias in their samples.

The findings concerning sexual and physical abuse under the age of 16 were as follows:

  • 10% had experienced physical abuse as a child (CI=8%-12%): 3% had been severely beaten on one occasion and 7% repeatedly;
  • 39% (n=2117, CI=35%-43%) had experienced some form of sexual abuse as a child;
  • 29% (n=2115, CI=25%-32%) had experienced non-contact sexual abuse as a child;
  • 28% (n=2113, CI=25%-31%) had experienced contact sexual abuse as a child;
  • 6% (n=2103, CI=4%-7%) had experienced penetrative sexual abuse as a child.

These figures can only be described as disturbing. Even given the comments above on the problems with sample surveys (discussed by the authors(190)) this was a sufficiently large and apparently well-constructed survey to yield figures which could be taken as broadly representative of the situation across the Australian population.

Mazza et al. found that less than one third of victims of partner violence or childhood physical abuse had discussed the issue with a doctor. More than half (54%) said that this was because the doctor had never asked. Only 9% of victims of adult or childhood sexual abuse had disclosed it to a doctor. Fifty three per cent said that it had never been relevant to a consultation and 27% said they had never been asked. Only 10% said they would be too embarrassed and 1% that they did not trust their doctor. Given that there can be significant short and long term health effects of violence and abuse, the authors described physician inquiry rates into spouse abuse here, elsewhere, to be 'sub-optimal'. They concluded :

Detection is the first step in successful management to deal with both the immediate and long term effects of violence against women. This requires that medical practitioners not only develop the skills to diagnose violence perpetrated against women, but have knowledge of local agencies for referral as well as the legal and criminal options available to the woman.(191)

Appendix 3 'Prediction' Checklists for Violence and Abuse

Table A.3.1 shows the 'checklist' for spouse abuse, based on data obtained in the first National Survey of Family Violence. It should be noted that these are factors found to be correlated with family violence in the sampled community. Correlation does not imply causation and the predictive factors may not all generalise to other communities.

Table A.3.1. USA Spouse Violence 'Prediction' Checklist

Characteristics important for both husband-beating and wife-beating

Husband employed part-time or unemployed
Family income under $6,000 (less than half the average income at the time)
Husband a manual worker
Husband very worried about economic security
Wife very dissatisfied with standard of living
Two or more children
Disagreement over children
Grew up in family in which father hit mother
Married less than 10 years
Age thirty or under
Non-white racial group
Above average score on Marital Conflict Index
Very high score on Stress Index
Wife dominant in family decisions
Husband was verbally aggressive to wife

Characteristics important for both husband-beating and wife-beating

Wife was verbally aggressive to husband
Gets drunk but is not alcoholic
Lived in neighbourhood less than two years
No participation in organised religion

Characteristics that are important for wife-beating

Husband dominant in family decisions
Wife is full-time housewife
Wife very worried about economic security

Characteristics that are important for husband beating

Wife was physically punished at age thirteen plus by her father
Wife grew up in family in which mother hit father
Wife is a manual worker

Among the families studied, scores on the checklist ranged from 0 to 18 (out of a possible 25), with an average of 6. Couples with up to 3 of the check list indicators had violence rates under 2%; with 4 or more 5%, rising to 70% for a score of 13.

These rates were based on 'minor' violence - pushing, shoving, slapping, throwing things, as well as severe violence. However, the authors found that the incidence of severe violence rose steeply after scores of 7 or greater.

Table A.3.2. USA Child Abuse 'Prediction' Checklist

Important for child abuse by either parent

Was verbally aggressive to child (insulted, smashed things)
Above average conflict between husband and wife
Husband was physically violent to wife

Important for abuse by mothers

Husband was verbally aggressive to wife
Husband a manual worker

Important for abuse by mothers

Husband dissatisfied with standard of living
Wife a manual worker
Wife age thirty or under
Wife was physically punished at age 13 plus by father

Important for abuse by fathers

Two or more children at home
Wife is full-time house wife
Married less than 10 years
Lived in neighbourhood less than two years
No participation by father in organised groups
Husband was physically punished at age 13 plus by mother
Grew up in family where mother hit father

Scores in the sample ranged from 0 to 16, with an average between 5 and 6. The rate of child abuse (obtained from the CTS, a self-report scale of violent behaviour excluding sexual assault), rose with the score on the checklist. Very low scores were associated with a complete absence of child abuse. Rates of abuse rose steeply after a score of 7, particularly for mothers. Straus et al. noted that the rate of child abuse for mothers was 75% greater than that for fathers. They related the difference to the much greater proportion of child caring responsibilities borne by mothers in a typical American family. [It is worth noting that studies of child abuse based on official reports typically find that male offenders outnumber female, eg Stark & Flitcraft(192) found that male offenders were three times more common than female. Finkelor(193) found that males are most commonly the perpetrators of child sexual abuse, and victims are primarily female.]

The rate of spouse abuse for people with the highest scores on the spouse abuse checklist was about double the rate of child abuse for parents with the highest scores on the child abuse checklist.(194) The authors hypothesised that lack of information about the child could have been a major factor in reducing the predictive value of the latter checklist.

Endnotes

  1. Scutt, J.Even in the Best of Homes.Penguin, Australia, 1983: 11.
  2. Jones, A.Next Time She'll Be Dead: Battering and How to Stop ItBeacon Press, Boston, 1994: 19-20.
  3. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 113.
  4. Uncited case quoted in Thurman, V.City of Torrington 595 F. Supp. 1521-1528, 1984.
  5. Jones, A.Next Time She'll be Dead: Battering and How to Stop It,Beacon Press, Boston, 1994: 20.
  6. Cited in Geis, G. 'Rape and Marriage:Historical and Cross-Cultural Considerations'. Paper delivered at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York, 1980: 1-2.
  7. S.A.Criminal Consolidation Act, 1935 as amended in 1975.
  8. R v David Norman Johns unreported, 26 August 1992, Supreme Court of South Australia No. 91/452.
  9. McCulloch, J. and Schetzer, L. 'Brute Force: The Need for Affirmative Action in the Victorian Police Force' inThe Australian Feminist Law JournalVol. 1, 1993: 53.
  10. Webster, J., Sweet, S. & Stolz, T.A. 'Domestic Violence in Pregnancy' inThe Medical Journal of AustraliaV. 161, October 1994: 466.
  11. See, for example, Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: ch. 3.
  12. Goode, W.J. 'Force and Violence in the Family'. Journal of Marriage and the Family.33, November 1971.
  13. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 76.
  14. Bates, L., Redman, S., Brown W.& Hancock, C.,Domestic Violence experienced by women attending an accident and emergency department,Australian Journal of Public Health, Vol. 19, No. 3, 1995: 294.
  15. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 62.
  16. Rodgers, K. 'Wife Assault: The Findings of a National Survey'Juristat,Vol. 14, No. 9, March 1994.
  17. Webster, J., Sweet, S. & Stolz, T.A. 'Domestic Violence in Pregnancy' inThe Medical Journal of Australia,V. 161, October 1994.
  18. The CCH Macquarie Concise Dictionary of Modern Law, 1988.
  19. Coochey, J. 'All men are bastards.'The Independent Monthly, November 1995.
  20. Assistant Statistician, Social Analysis, Income and Welfare Branch, ABS, private communication, 1 November 1995.
  21. Tasmanian Domestic Violence Advisory CommitteeEconomic Cost of Violence Against Women. May 1994.
  22. NSW Domestic Violence Strategic Plan, 1994.
  23. From Forum,A National Strategy on Violence Against Women, 30 October 1992.
  24. Public Policy Research Centre,Domestic Violence Attitude Survey,1988: 33.
  25. Office of the Status of Women'Community Attitudes to Violence Against Women:(Prepared by AWOP Research Services Pty), Canberra: AGPS, 1995: 18.
  26. Ibid:13.
  27. ABSCrime and Safety in Australia,April 1993. Canberra: AGPS, 1994: Cat. No. 4509.0: vii.
  28. Coochey, J. 'All Men Are Bastards',The Independent Monthly,November, 1995.
  29. See Crime Research Centre,Estimating the Incidence and Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Western Australia. University of Western Australia, 1995, especially pp 38-39 for a discussion of the ABS 'attack' question.
  30. Statistics Canada-Cat. No. 11-001E.8.
  31. Gardner, J. 'Violence Against Women'Justats, No. 3, January, 1994.
  32. Crime Research Centre,Estimating the Incidence and Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Western Australia.University of Western Australia, 1995: 17-18.
  33. Ibid:68.
  34. Sedlak, A.J. 'Prevention of Wife Abuse' inHandbook of Family Violenceedited by Van Hasselt, V. B., Morrison, R. L., Bellack, A. L., & Hersen, M. Plenum Press, New York, 1988: 319.
  35. Ibid: 319-320.
  36. Ibid: 324.
  37. Straus, M.A., Gelles, R.J. & Steinmetz, S.K.Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family.Anchor Books, New York, 1980: 203-204.
  38. Paymar, M.,Domestic Assault: Building a Coordinated Community Response, Proceedings of a Conference on Challenging the Legal System Response to Domestic Violence,Southside Domestic Violence Action Group, Brisbane, 23-26 March 1994: 3.
  39. Elliot, F.A. 'Neurological Factors' inHandbook of Family Violenceedited by V.B. Van Hasselt, R.L .Morrison, A.S. Bellack & M. Herson. Plenum Press, London NY, 1988.
  40. Ibid: 377.
  41. Stark, E. & Flitcraft, A. 'Women and Children at risk: a feminist perspective on child abuse.'International Journal of Health Services,Vol. 18, No. 1, 1988: 311.
  42. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 113.
  43. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 514.
  44. Allen, C.M. & Straus, M.A.Resources,'Power and Husband-Wife Violence'.The Social Causes of Husband-Wife Violence, Ed. M.A. Straus & G.T. Hotaling. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1980: Ch. 12.
  45. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 514.
  46. Ibid: 515.
  47. Stets, J.A. & Straus, M.A. 'Gender Differences in Reporting Marital Violence and its Medical and Psychological Consequences' inPhysical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Familiesedited by M.A. Straus & R.J. Gelles. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, 1990: 162.
  48. Ibid:163.
  49. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 119.
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  51. Ibid:13.
  52. Brown, B.W. 'Wife-Employment, Marital Equality, and Husband-Wife Violence' in M.A. Straus and G.T. Hotaling eds.The Social Causes of Husband-wife Violence. Minneapolis, M.N. University of Minnesota Press. 1980.
  53. Sanson, A., Prior, M., Smart, D.,Oberklaid, F.,Gender Differences in Aggression in Childhood: Implications for a Peaceful World,Australian Psychologist, Vol. 28, No. 2, 1993: 86-92.
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  55. Ibid:190.
  56. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 104-105.
  57. Campbell, A.Out of Control Men, Women and Aggression. Harper and Rowe, New York, 1993: 16.
  58. Ibid:104.
  59. Ibid:74.
  60. Goode, W.J. 'Force and Violence in the Family'. Journal of Marriage and the Family.33, November 1971: 628.
  61. Allen, C.M. & Straus, M.A.Resources,'Power and Husband-Wife Violence'.The Social Causes of Husband-Wife Violence, Ed. M.A. Straus & G.T. Hotaling. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1980: Ch. 12.
  62. Walker, L.Terrifying Love. Harper & Row, 1987.
  63. Paymar, M.,Domestic Assault: Building a Coordinated Community Response, Proceedings of a Conference on Challenging the Legal System Response to Domestic Violence,Southside Domestic Violence Action Group, Brisbane, 23-26 March 1994: 8.
  64. Levinson, D.,Family Violence in Cross-Cultural Perpective, Handbook of Family Violence, edited by Hasselt, V.B., Morrison, K.L., Bellack, A.L. & Herson, M., Plenum Press, New York, 1988: 443.
  65. Ibid: 452.
  66. Whiting, J.W.M. & Child, T.L.Child Training and Personality: A Cross Cultural Study.Yale University Press, New Haven, 1953.
  67. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 518.
  68. Zeigert, K.A. 'The Swedish Prohibition of Corporal Punishment: A Preliminary Report'.Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1983: Vol. 45, 917.
  69. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 520.
  70. Baron, L. & Straus, M. 'Cultural and Economic Sources of Homicide in the United States'.Sociological Quarterly 29, 1988.
  71. Community Education Taskforce on Family ViolencePerspectives on Family Violence, Booklet 1, Melbourne, 1989: 9.
  72. Ibid:11.
  73. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 109.
  74. Sabshin, M. 'Television Violence'.Legislative Newsletter. American Psychiatric Association, Division of Government Relations, July 15 1985: 3.
  75. Jones, A.Next Time She'll Be Dead: Battering and How to Stop ItBeacon Press, Boston, 1994: 83.
  76. Stark, E., Flitcraft, A. & Frazier, W.,Medicine and Patriarchal Violence: The social construction of a 'private' event,V. Nararo (ed),Women and health: The politics of sex in medicine, Vol.4, 1983: 195.
  77. Paymar, M.,Domestic Assault: Building a Coordinated Community Response, Proceedings of a Conference on Challenging the Legal System Response to Domestic Violence,Southside Domestic Violence Action Group, Brisbane, 23-26 March 1994: 8.
  78. Ibid:9.
  79. Jones, A.Next Time She'll Be Dead: Battering and How to Stop ItBeacon Press, Boston, 1994.
  80. See for example: Esteal, P. 'Homicide Between Sexual Intimates in Australia:a Preliminary in Report'Homicide, Patterns Prevention and Control. Australian Institute of Criminology, 1993: 84.
  81. 1991, 53 A. Crim. R 362.
  82. 1990, 55 C.C.C.(3d) 97.
  83. Stubbs, J. & Tolmie, J. 'Battered Woman Syndrome in Australia: A Challenge to Gender Bias in the Law?' in Stubbs, Ed.Women, Male Violence and the Law.Institute of Criminology, Federation Press, Sydney, 1994: 197.
  84. Ibid:195.
  85. Ibid:195.
  86. For example Esteal, P. quoted in 'Domestic violence is criminal: expert'Canberra Times7 March 1995.
  87. Steinmetz, A.K. & Lucca, J.S. 'Husband Battering' inHandbook of Family Violenceedited by Van Hassett, V.B., Morrison, R.L., Bellack A.L. & Hersen M. Plenum Press, New York, 1988.
  88. See for example: Conrade, G. 'Abuse in Families of the Catholic Church Community: Gender Differences in Attitudes and Incidence'. Unpublished Thesis, University of Queensland, 1994.
  89. Hatfield, L. 'Pulling no Punches'.The Sydney Morning Herald,8 May 1995.
  90. Braithwaite, J and Daly, K. 'Masculinities, violence and communitarian control.' in T. Newburn & E. Stanko Eds. Just Boys Doing Business? Men Masculinities and Crime. Routledge, London and New York, 1994: 191.
  91. Sherman, L. 'Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemmas',The Free Press, New York, 1992.
  92. Brehm, S. & Brehm, JPsychological Reactance: A Theory of Freedom and ControlAcademic Press, 1981.
  93. Braithwaite, J and Daly, K. 'Masculinities, violence and communitarian control.' in T. Newburn & E. Stanko Eds. Just Boys Doing Business? Men Masculinities and Crime. Routledge, London and New York, 1994.
  94. Braithwaite, JCrime, Shame and Re-integration. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  95. See for example: James, M. 'Abuse and Neglect of Older People'.Family MattersNo. 37, April 1994: 94-97.
  96. National Committee on Violence:Directions for Australia, Australian Institute of Criminology, 1990: 103.
  97. Braithwaite, J 'Beyond positivism: learning from contextual integrated strategies.'Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency,Vol. 30 No. 4, November 1993: 387.
  98. Paymar, M.,Domestic Assault: Building a Coordinated Community Response, Proceedings of a Conference on Challenging the Legal System Response to Domestic Violence,Southside Domestic violence Action Group, Brisbane, 23-26 March 1994.
  99. Ibid:14.
  100. Sherman, L. 'Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemas', The Free Press,New York, 1992: 250.
  101. Ibid:247.
  102. Ibid:Ch.9.
  103. Ibid:Ch.9.
  104. Braithwaite, J and Daly, K 'Masculinities, violence and communitarian control.' in T. Newburn & E. Stanko Eds. Just Boys Doing Business? Men Masculinities and Crime. Routledge, London and New York, 1994.
  105. Coochey, J. 'OSW's One-eyed Study of Violence'.The Canberra Times, April 9 1995.
  106. Lane, T. 'What's this About the Fairer Sex?'The Age,30 April 1995.
  107. McIntyre, A. 'Time for a Big Picture of Domestic Violence'. The Age,15 Feb. 1995.
  108. James, M.,Family Matters,No. 37, April 1994: 94-97.
  109. Paymar, M.,Domestic Assault: Building a Coordinated Community Response, Proceedings of a Conference on Challenging the Legal System Response to Domestic Violence,Southside Domestic Violence Action Group, Brisbane, 23-26 March 1994.
  110. Sherman, L. 'Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemas', The Free Press,New York, 1992: 248.
  111. UNICEFThe State of the World's Children.OUP, 1995: Panel 7..
  112. Ibid: Panel 7.
  113. Browne, A.US Senate Judiciary Hearings, December, 1990.
  114. Neale, P. 'For Abused, Few Places to Turn'.Boston Globe,June 2 1992: 6.
  115. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 5.
  116. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 118.
  117. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations toViolence in 8, 145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 110.
  118. Ibid:509.
  119. Ibid:120.
  120. Paymar, M.,Domestic Assault: Building a Coordinated Community Response, Proceedings of a Conference on Challenging the Legal System Response to Domestic Violence,Southside Domestic Violence Action Group, Brisbane, 23-26 March 1994: 8.
  121. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 120.
  122. Ibid:120.
  123. Ibid:120.
  124. Straus, M.A., Gelles, R.J. & Steinmetz, S.K.Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family.Anchor Books, New York, 1980: 35-56.
  125. Giles-Sims, J.Wife Battering: A Systems Approach, Guildford Press, NY, 1983.
  126. Pagelow, M.D.Woman-Battering: Victims and Their Experiences.Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA, 1981.
  127. Walker, L.E.The Battered Woman.Harper & Row, NY, 1979.
  128. Hotaling, G.T. & Sugarman, D.B. 'An Analysis of Risk Markers in Husband to Wife Violence: The Current State of Knowledge'.Violence and Victims1, 1986.
  129. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 96.
  130. Okun, L.Women Abuse: Facts Replacing Myths. State University of New York Press, Albany, 1986.
  131. Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. 'Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families,'Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1990: 84.
  132. Ibid::85.
  133. Rodgers, K. 'Wife Assault: The Findings of a National Survey'Juristat,Vol. 14, No. 9, March 1994:3.
  134. Allan, B. 'Wife Abuse - The Impact on Children'. Ottowa:The National Clearing House on Family Violence, Health Canada, 1991.
  135. Rodgers, K. 'Wife Assault: The Findings of a National Survey'Juristat,Vol. 14, No. 9, March 1994: 13-14.
  136. Ibid:12.
  137. Ibid:6.
  138. Ibid: 7.
  139. Ibid:11-12.
  140. Ibid:14.
  141. Ibid:15.
  142. Ibid:20.
  143. Ibid:16.
  144. Ibid:18.
  145. From '20pc of NZ men abuse partners' inThe Australian 3 August 1995.
  146. Webster, J. , Sweet, S. & Stolz, T.A. 'Domestic Violence in Pregnancy' inThe Medical Journal of Australia, V. 161, October 1994.
  147. McFarlane J., Parker B., Soeken K., Bullock L. 'Assessing for Abuse During Pregnancy'.JAMA267, 1992: 3167-3178.
  148. Hillard, P.J.A. 'Physical Abuse During Pregnancy'.Obstet Gynecol66, 1985.
  149. Brekke, J.S. 'Detecting Wife and Child Abuse in Clinical Settings'.Social Casework68, 1987.
  150. Webster, J. , Sweet, S. & Stolz, T.A. 'Domestic Violence in Pregnancy' inThe Medical Journal of Australia, V. 161, October 1994: 470.
  151. Gelles, R.J. & Straus, M.A. 'Methodological Issues in the Study of Family Violence', 'Violence and Pregnancy: Are Pregnant Women at Greater Risk of Abuse?' in Straus and Gelles, 1990: 285.
  152. Webster, J. , Sweet, S. & Stolz, T.A. 'Domestic Violence in Pregnancy' inThe Medical Journal of Australia, V. 161, October 1994: 470.
  153. Sherrard, J., Ozanne-Smith, J., Brumen, I.A., Routley, V., & Williams, F.Domestic Violence: Patterns and Indicators Report No. 63.Accident Research Centre, Monash University, 1994.
  154. Ibid:13.
  155. Ibid:17.
  156. Ibid:40.
  157. Ibid:49.
  158. Ibid: 52.
  159. Ibid:48.
  160. Stark, E., Flitcraft, A., Zuckerman, D., Grey, A., Robinson, J., & Frazier, W.Wife Abuse in the Medical Setting: An Introduction for Health Personnel. Domestic Violence Monograph Series, No. 7. National Clearing House on Domestic Violence, 1981.
  161. Cited in Routley, V. & Sherrard J. 'Domestic Violence' inHazard,No. 21, December 1994: 6.
  162. Stark, E. & Flitcraft, A. 'Women and Children at risk: a feminist perspective on child abuse.'International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1988.
  163. Strang, H.Homicides in Australia 1990-91.Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, 1992.
  164. Cuthbert, M., Lovejoy, F., Fulde, G.Invesstigation of the incidence & analysis of cases of alleged violence reporting to St Vincent's hospital. In Chappel, D., Grabosky, P. Strang H, (eds)Australian Violence: Contemporary Perspectives, Canberra, Australian Institute of Criminology, 1991.
  165. Roberts, G., O'Toole, B.I., Lawrence, J., Raphael, B. 'Domestic violence victims in a hospital emergency department'. Medical Journal of Australia,1993.
  166. Bates, L., Redman, S., Brown, W. Hancock, L. 'Domestic violence experienced by women attending an accident and emergency department'.Australian Journal of Public Health,Vol. 19, No. 3, 1995.
  167. Ibid:298-299.
  168. Conrade, G. 'Abuse in Families of the Catholic Church Community: Gender Differences in Attitudes and Incidence'. Unpublished Thesis, University of Queensland, 1994: 2.
  169. Conrade, G. & Noller, P.Abuse in Families of the Church Community: A study of Anglican and Uniting Church women. Unpublished manuscript, 1992.
  170. Neill, R 'Silence to Violence'.The Australian, 3 June 1995.
  171. Family Violence Professional Education TaskforceFamily Violence: Everybody's Business, Somebody's Life, Federation Press, 1994: 77.
  172. National Committee on Violence,Directions for Australia, AustralianInstitute of Criminology, 1990: 37.
  173. Atkinson, J.National Domestic Violence Education Program,Report of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sub Program, Office of Status of Women, 1990: 5.
  174. Crime Research Centre Estimating the Incidence and Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Western Australia. University of Western Australia, 1995: 20.
  175. Australian Bureau of StatisticsNational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey 1994: Detailed Findings. Canberra: AGPS, 1995: Cat. No. 4190.0.
  176. Home for a Night: One Night Census 26 May 1994, Commonwealth Department of Housing & Regional Development.
  177. Roberts, G., O'Toole B.I., Lawrence, J. & Raphael, B. 'Domestic violence victims in a hospital emergency department', Medical Journal of Australia,1993.
  178. Moo, A. 'Marginalisation and Migrant Women in Refuges', in S.E. Hatty Ed.National Conference on Domestic Violence, Vol. 1. Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, 1988: 31.
  179. McIlroy,Keeping it in the Family,A Report on the Factors Surrounding Crisis for People from non-English Speaking Cultures and their Use of the ACT Supported Accommodation Assistances Program and the Migrant Resource Centre of Canberra & Queanbeyan Inc., Canberra, August 1995: 14.
  180. Iredale, R., Innes, J. and Castles, S.Serial Sponsorship: Immigration Policy and Human Rights,Centre for Multicultural Studies, University of Wollongong, 1992.
  181. Hatfield, L. 'Pulling no Punches'.The Sydney Morning Herald,8 May 1995.
  182. Ibid.
  183. Ibid.
  184. National Committee on Violence:Directions for Australia, Australian Institute of Criminology, 1990: 40.
  185. Angus, G. , Wilkinson, K. & Zanbar, P.Child Abuse and Neglect in Australia. Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, AGPS, Canberra, 1994.
  186. Cashmore, J. & de Haas, N. 'Legal and Social Aspects of the Physical Punishment of Children'.A discussion paper published by the Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, under the auspices of the National Child Protection Council, Canberra, 1995.
  187. Tomison, A. 'Child abuse and other family violence; findings from a case tracking study.'Family MattersNo. 4 Winter, 1995: 33-37.
  188. Mazza, D., Dennerstein, L. & Ryan, V.'Physical, sexual and emotional violence against women: a general practice-based prevalence study', MJA, 1996, Vol. 164: 14-17.
  189. Ibid:14.
  190. Ibid: 16.
  191. Ibid: 17.
  192. Stark, E. & Flitcraft, A. 'Women and Children at risk: a feminist perspective on child abuse.'International Journal of Health Services,Vol. 18, No. 1, 1988.
  193. Finkelhor, D.Sexually Victimised ChildrenThe Free Press, NY, 1979.
  194. Straus, M.A., Gelles, R.J. & Steinmetz, S.K.Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family.Anchor Books, New York, 1980: 218.

Acronyms

ABS
Australian Bureau of Statistics
AIHW
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
ATT
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
CFS
Coroner's Facilitation System (Victoria)
CTS
Conflict Tactics Scale (United States)
ICCPR
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
NESB
Non-English speaking background
OSW
Office of the Status of Women
SAAP
Supported Accommodation Assistance Program
VISS
Victorian Injury Surveillance System
VMID
Victorian Inpatient Minimum Database

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