What causes family violence?

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Family violence is a complex issue and there is no single cause. There are many factors that predict or 'drive' higher levels of family violence in the community.

There is a difference between the drivers of family violence, and factors that can increase risk.

The term ‘drivers’ is used instead of ‘causes’ to emphasise that while these factors are closely associated with the prevalence of violence at a population level, the relationship is more complex than cause and effect.

The drivers of family violence at a societal level are complex. They include structural gender inequality and community attitudes and social norms about gender and violence more generally.

Evidence shows that a major driver of family violence in our community is gender inequality – that is, the unequal distribution of power, resources, and choice based on someone’s gender identity. For example, in individual relationships this inequality plays out in the belief that a man is entitled to exercise power and control over his partner and children. It can also show up in the belief that gender diverse or non-binary people are less deserving of safety and social inclusion.

Family violence occurs in all cultures, communities and across all demographics including age, gender and socioeconomic status. However, specific groups experience unique impacts and systematic barriers due to factors such as ableism, ageism, criminal history, homophobia, racism, and other forms of discrimination.

Because family violence is a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, it is important to recognise that perpetrators are responsible for using family violence. Victim survivors are not at fault or to blame for experiencing violence. Perpetrators of family violence must be held accountable by systems that can intervene with them, reduce their use of violence, and provide opportunities for them to change their behaviour. While there may be reinforcing or exacerbating factors such as the perpetrator’s own lived experience of violence, acquired brain injury or the use of drugs or alcohol, there are no excuses for using violence, abuse and controlling behaviours against another person.

This is also relevant to the perpetrator’s parenting role. A parent who perpetrates family violence against another parent or family member, who abuses and harms children or exposes them to the effects of abuse, is choosing to make family violence part of their children’s lives.


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