• Child Development

Domestic Violence – Understanding the type of situation you are in and how to take the right action




This is not a subject we take lightly, but with recent events portrayed in the media, we wanted to put these words together as an opportunity to help.


The statistics in Australia around domestic abuse are disturbing to the say the least:


A survey of domestic violence data in Australia revealed that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced at least one incident of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. (Fact file: Domestic violence in Australia. 5 April 2016.)


We have all been guilty in the past of losing our tempers, screaming out names, using abusive language and in some cases, using some form of violence (e.g. smashing a plate or slamming a door). It’s important however to understand the two types of abuse when it comes to the context of domestic violence.


It’s also vitally important to understand which type of abuse can be managed through therapy and what will need more immediate action.


The Two Types of Abuse


Situational Abuse


According to the Gottman Institute this is described as: Situational violence occurs most often with couples who lack conflict resolution skills. Generally both partners feel remorse, understand the impact, and internalise the blame.


In other words, situational abuse can happen at anytime when one or both of the couple are triggered by the environment or situation.


It’s a one-off event, usually fuelled by stress and emotions and leads to a flare up during a volatile moment.


We are all guilty of name-calling or door slamming, however what follows is a period of remorse and reflection.


Characterological Abuse


This second type is far more sinister. Characterological abuse is where one partner clearly demonstrates controlling and dominating behaviour. This partner uses violence or abuse to gain control and will have very little triggers as it is more entrenched in their physical make up.


In this type, the outlets of abuse can vary, from physical and sexual violence to emotional and psychological abuse.


Can Therapy Help?


For those dealing with situational abuse, there are a number of relationship counsellors who can help a couple manage triggers and work together to create steps prevent any episodes in the future.


In terms of characterological abuse, the waters become muddied.


The best-case scenario is that the abuser seeks out psychological support to help them manage their characteristics, however seeking help is usually very low on the list of an individual who uses abusive behaviours.


Our advice is that if you are living with abuse you need to leave the situation or you should seek out psychological support to help you gain clarity and strength to leave.


Final Thoughts


The first thought for those living in an abusive relationship is “I’m crazy” – this is not the case. There is absolutely no reason for you to think this and mental illness is never, ever a justification for violence and control.


If you need to leave, leave – you are not crazy, it’s not you.

There is support there for you.


How to get help?

There are a number of support networks for those living with abuse, please click here to access White Ribbon and state contacts.

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