I recently wrote a paper on Domestic Violence, a subject very close to my heart and one I deal with in my Therapy rooms all too often. The trauma the women and children experience from these domestic violent and abusive outbursts remain with the victim forever.
While there is now a new push to teach children non-gender bias and respect in the schools I wonder if this additional teacher requirement is the best way to go? And don’t they do that now anyway? Any information given to children is great, however I ask, what then? They just return home to abuse, anger and violence. The cycle continues. Research tells us that many male children grow up repeating this abuse and violence they have learnt in the home.
I ask – Why do we treat the symptom and not the cause????
- We provide shelters for women and children to reside in to protect them from their abusive spouse
- We offer support to women and provide limited financial assistance to them
- We offer very limited professional Counselling services to assist the to recover from this abuse allowing them to understand this is not ‘normal’ behaviour in a family
- We occasionally arrest the perpetrator before his release to repeat again?
We need to address the cause instead of only treating or responding to the symptom. I believe we need to take it directly to the parents. To teach both women and men this behaviour is not ‘normal’. Problem with so many of our men is they grew up believing this behaviour is ‘normal’, they need education on not only to stop this abuse and violence but ways to behave instead. We continually tell these men this behaviour is unacceptable however when do we actually teach them how to act, how to communicate effectively, how to parent. Remember, most of them have never seen or experienced a calm functioning family or household. They have often grown up with conflict and anger and this is how they respond to most everything.
What I propose is:
- Reduce conflict within the home. Explain and identify what conflict is. Many parents, particularly those raised in conflict as children, believe conflict is a natural part of communication. Parents therefore then model this type of conflict to their children and the cycle continues (Baillargeon, Tremblay & Willms, 2002).
- Understanding Domestic Violence acts include physical, sexual, financial, emotional and psychological abuse (Morgan & Chadwick, 2011). Domestic violence is also a factor in youth homelessness. The National Youth Commission Inquiry into Youth Homelessness found that family breakdown and conflict, including domestic violence, were common factors precipitating homelessness (National Youth Commission, 2008). As described in the Domestic Violence in Australia – an overview of the issues (2011) in men’s attitudes and behaviour are shaped by their male peers, this includes learned behaviour by sons from their fathers.
- Learn improved communication skills. A major part of any program is educating parents on an improved communication style, the use of more appropriate language and how to listen and hear what the other person or children are trying to say. Families experience stress in their lives, particularly if young children are challenging; education to address these issues experienced by families and educate them on how to reduce these stress levels and manage behaviours and emotions of themselves, their spouse and children in a more controlled manner.
- Acquire mediation abilities. Mediation by definition is to resolve or settle differences; to discuss with the intention of producing an agreement with a peaceful settlement. Parents need to learn mediation skills. Mediation is a learned skill and a skill many children fail to learn from parents, especially if raised in a conflictual home environment. Mediation skills once practiced and can often become a new habitual response when conflict commences to escalate. Mediation creates an environment of listening, hearing and acceptance in a non-judgemental manner (ADR, 2007). When we understand and learn this skill, conflict can be greatly reduced.
- Obtain knowledge in parenting skills, appropriate discipline, setting boundaries and consequences for children. Education on positive interactions should be a focus (APS, 2015)
Parents raise their children as they have been raised therefore parents raised in an abusive environment replicate this parenting style. While they may not be happy with their parenting style they are not educated in any other way hence they revert to their the parenting style which they had naturally learned (Parenthood in America, 1998).
Parenting Training, Communication Education and Mediation Lessons are the first step in reducing this DV issue. Some have suggested primary school teachers teach our young children non-gender bias respect and while this is what I believe they already learn at school, it is not addressing this issue – the Cause.
We are failing our woman and children; what we are doing is not working with DV figures continuing to escalate and women dying every week at the hands of their violent partner. With all the proactive work, education and support we have on offer, this is not making a difference.
How do I know this works? Because I have seen many families that have learnt better ways to communicate, tolerate and interact between each partner and the children, reducing conflict and creating a more stable and happy home environment. We need to do something different. If we can change only 10% of behaviour, this equates to thousands of woman and children each year saved from violence and abuse.
Surely this is something to consider?
Australian Institute of Family Studies (2015)
Australian Psychological Society (2015)
Parent guide to helping children manage conflict, aggression and bullying. Baillargeon, R., Tremblay, R. & Willms, J. D. (2002), Physical aggression among toddlers: does it run in families? in Vulnerable children: Findings from Canada’s
Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth, J. D. Willms (Ed.), University of Alberta Press Morgan, A., and Chadwick, H.,(2009) Key issues in domestic violence, Summary paper, no. 7,
Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), Canberra National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council, (2007), Third National ADR Research Forum, La Trobe University, Melbourne.
Parenthood in America, (1998), Rutgers University, David Popenoe, PhD.