Five Phrases That Should Be Banned From Discussions on Domestic Violence - Shannon Fentiman

The Palaszczuk Government has recently released our response to Quentin Bryce’s landmark report into Domestic and Family Violence, Not Now, Not Ever, reaffirming our commitment to not just tackling, but eradicating domestic and family violence in Queensland.

Our Government has accepted all 140 recommendations, and implementation of a number of them is already underway including two new 72-hour crisis shelters for people fleeing violence as part of $31.3 million allocated for domestic and family violence prevention in the State Budget. 

We have also begun consultation on Queensland’s first strategy to tackle domestic and family violence. Until now, Queensland has been the only state without one.

These are vital and necessary steps we, as a Government and as a community, need to take to eradicate domestic and family violence from our lives, and to do so we must acknowledge that domestic violence is a by-product of the same cultural attitudes that fuel violence against women. 

In discussions about domestic and family violence there are a series of outdated phrases that seem to keep popping up.

The thinking behind them needs to be challenged and eliminated. Doing this is vital to countering this pervasive problem that is breaking families and harming women and their children.

So here are five phrases that I never want to hear again in relation to domestic violence.

1. “It’s none of my business”

False. It is everybody’s business. In a just community we look out for our most vulnerable and offer them help. When we wash our hands of violence in our midst we consign women and children to fear and pain. People ring the police in a second if a raucous party bellows from a next door neighbour’s house, but why on earth don’t the sounds of abuse compel them to pick up the phone? It’s not “private”. It’s not “their family business”. Its abuse – and we all have a responsibility to act.

2. “You can’t help women who won’t help themselves”

This is often said alongside comments like “why does she go back?” From my work in community organisations supporting women in Logan for many years I know that speaking out can be incredibly difficult for a woman experiencing violence. Women who have suffered domestic violence may have had their self-worth and confidence systematically and deliberately destroyed. Just picking up that phone or having that conversation can take everything that they have. No one can know the inside of another’s family life. It’s not for you to judge. We all need to provide support when she is ready.

3. “At least he doesn’t hit her”

So not the point. Non-physical forms of domestic and family violence such as controlling behaviour, stalking, threats and verbal abuse are completely unacceptable, representing an attitude of dominance and ownership. They can cause serious damage and can quickly turn into physical abuse.

4. “He just loves his children so much”

Really? Does he really? World-wide evidence points to the harm done to children from witnessing, experiencing and being used as tools or threats in domestic and family violence. Children learn behaviour and attitudes towards others from the behaviour they see. You cannot show your love to children while abusing or controlling a family member.

5. “We shouldn’t be lighting candles and talking about domestic violence, we need to actually do something”

We should do both. Always. We have to talk about it and keep talking about it. I don’t want May to be the only month we are talking about domestic and family violence.

This violence has to stop. We need to call out the behaviour and attitudes that allow it – starting with these five ill-informed phrases.

If you suspect someone you know might be experiencing domestic violence, Trust Your Instinct, speak up and call DVConnect  - 1800 811 811.

Shannon Fentiman is the Queensland Minister for Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, and Minister for Multicultural Affairs.

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