Domestic violence is known by many names including spouse abuse, domestic abuse, domestic assault, battering, partner abuse, marital strife, marital dispute, wife beating, marital discord, woman abuse, dysfunctional relationship, intimate fighting, male beating and so on. McCue (1995) maintains that it is commonly accepted by legal professionals as "the emotional, physical, psychological, or sexual abuse perpetrated against a person by that person's spouse, former spouse, partner, former partner or by the other parent of a minor child" (although several other forms of domestic violence have become increasingly apparent in today's society). Whatever name is used to refer to it, however, domestic violence is a very grave and difficult problem faced by Australian society.
Although domestic violence can include the abuse of parents, children, siblings and other relatives, it predominantly involves violence against sexual partners with women being the most common victims and men being the 'aggressors' (Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce 1991). It is inadequate to view domestic violence as an aspect of the normal interpersonal conflict which takes place in most families. According to McCue (1995), many families experience conflict, but not all male members of families inevitably resort to violence. It is not the fact of family disputes or marital conflict that generate or characterize violence in the home. Violence occurs when one person assumes the right to dominate over the other and decides to use violence or abuse as a means of ensuring that domination (Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce 1991).
Although all forms of domestic violence are pressing issues of equal importance, this essay is more specifically directed at spouse abuse and aims to delve deeper into the issue of domestic violence by examining its causes with respect to the socioeconomic status of the particular family and its effects upon women in Australian society.
The FACS (Family and Community Services) booklet (1995), defines domestic violence as follows:
'when a woman suffers persistent physical, verbal, economic or social abuse from her partner with the result that she suffers a sustained emotional and, or psychological effect.'
Domestic violence is the most common form of assault in Australia today. However, it remains a hidden problem because it occurs within the privacy of the home and those involved are usually reluctant to speak out (Healey 1993). Actually, it extends far beyond merely physical abuse and incorporates a range of behaviours aimed by the male to his partner. These behaviours include assault, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, spiritual abuse, social abuse and economic abuse. The belief that the perpetrators of domestic violence are typically stupid, mentally ill, aggressive males with criminal records and a generally vicious and barbaric nature is surprisingly incorrect. According to McCue (1995), many of the men who present most violently in the household portray themselves quite differently to the rest of society. They are generally not lawbreakers, but rather appear to be charming, often handsome law-abiding citizens outside of their own homes who maintain an image as friendly and devoted family men. In fact, it is likely that many such aggressors aren't even aware of the major impact their actions have upon their partners. Violence occurs in families of all kinds and from all cultures and socio-economic profiles (McCue 1995). As stated previously, the majority of violence in the typical Australian household is perpetrated by men against women. In Australia, all available data on family violence indicates that...