Understanding the Issue

What is Family & Domestic Violence

Stopping Family Violence uses the term violence or family and domestic violence to describe patterns of behaviour intended to coerce, control and create fear within intimate (current and former partners) or family relationships. Violence refers to a range of abusive and controlling behaviours, including but not limited to,  physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, cultural abuse, systems abuse, undermining or disrupting parenting, using or harming children to coerce or control their mother, financial abuse and social isolation.

Why is it Gendered

Our Watch research shows that women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionate rates of violence, and the violence is often more severe. Some groups of the community are more likely to experience violence due to factors such as systemic and structural forms of social injustice, discrimination, and oppression.


Research shows that approximately 95% of all victims of violence – whether women or men – experience violence from a male perpetrator. Gendered language in family and domestic violence isn’t used with the intention to exclude other groups of people as we know violence exists in other relationships. Gendered language is used in our work to represent the statistics that show us that family and domestic violence is predominantly used by a male perpetrator against a female victim. Our language is not intended to exclude or diminish the experiences of people who do not identify as male or female or have heterosexual relationships.

Drivers of Gendered Violence

Research by Our Watch shows that violence against women has distinct gender drivers that consistently predict or drive the gendered pattern of violence. These are:


·      condoning violence against women

·      men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence

·      rigid gender roles and stereotypes

·      male relationships that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women


Structural inequalities affirm attitudes and behaviours that enable violence against women. Violence against women is preventable by changing structures, attitudes and behaviours.


The evidence shows that the substantial majority of users of FDV are cisgender heterosexual men and that a significant majority of victim-survivors are cisgender heterosexual women. Our use of gendered and heterosexual language reflects this understanding. However, we acknowledge that sex and gender are socially constructed categories. Binary language assumes only two categories of sex and gender (men/women or male/female) which does not reflect the gender diversity of people. Our language is not intended to exclude or diminish the experiences of people who do not identify as male or female or have heterosexual relationships. 

Why Work on Perpetrator Response

When we improve responses to perpetrators, we improve safety for adult and child victim-survivors. Focusing on the perpetrator means shifting away from a victim-blaming narrative and constantly pivoting to the perpetrators’ behaviours as the cause of the harm.

Focusing on the perpetrator’s patterns of behaviour identifies the impact of his unsafe, violent, and controlling behaviours on his current or former partner and their children. A parent who engages in a pattern of behaviour to control, disrupt & destabilise daily living always impacts the family’s health, stability, safety and well-being of adult and child victim-survivors.

Stopping Family Violence works to promote practices that move the blame from the victim-survivor to the person perpetrating the violence. When we learn to work with adult and child victim-survivors whilst holding perpetrators’ behaviours as the focus, we learn to work with the needs of the family in a child-centred way, and we work to partner with the adult and child-victim survivors to increase their safety.

Why Doesn't She Leave

“Why doesn’t she leave?” is a common question that comes up when we talk about gender-based violence. Leaving or planning to leave an abusive partner can involve a series of incredibly difficult and complex decisions. Distressingly, statistics show that, on average, almost one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, with a number of these homicides occurring post-separation.


Leaving a violent partner can take many attempts, and many do not leave as staying may be the safest option for her and the children. Leaving is not only dangerous, but it can mean a loss of identity, status, family and community support networks, financial security, loss of the child’s school, friends and networks, and the only place they may have to live. We should never judge a victim-survivor for her decision to stay. Instead, we should assume that she is already doing many things to promote safety and well-being for her and her family. We should learn about those strengths in the context of the perpetrator’s pattern of behaviour, and ask how we can partner (or be an ally) with her to help further build on safety planning and to support her and her children. Instead of asking “why doesn’t she leave?”, we need to asking “why doesn’t he stop?”

Who is Family and Domestic Violence Training for?

Stopping Family Violence provides training that helps a wide range of practitioners and front-line workers in intersecting roles to work in a safe way with families, even if they have little to no contact with perpetrators. Stopping Family Violence also provides practitioners that work directly with perpetrators with the specialist skills needed for this work.



There are many intersections of family and domestic, including (but not limited to) substance use, mental health, and homelessness. We need to support people in those services to understand family and domestic violence and the impact of the perpetrators’ behaviours on the adult and child victim-survivor. 


Responding to perpetrators effectively and improving safety for women and children requires integrated approaches where everyone works together systematically and cooperatively, from primary prevention through to crisis care, from specialist services to universal services, to members of the public.

How Can We End Violence Against Women and Children?

Violence perpetrated by men against women and children is a widespread problem, but there are so many ways we can work together to solve it. We can all work together in a range of settings, such as the workplace, in our clubs, with our friends, and in all organisations, to promote and foster safe, equal, and respectful relationships.


We need everyone to help prevent and reduce the rates of violence perpetrated by men against women and children. This includes boys and men taking a leading role in discouraging violent behaviour and challenging discrimination and gender stereotyping.