You may notice I refer to myself as a victim or survivor of domestic violence (DV) even though my abuser was never physical with me. In Australian DV includes physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. According to my dear friend Wikipedia, “…in Australia, domestic violence is defined by Family Law Act 1975 as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family, or causes the family member to be fearful”. It can also be referred to as “family violence”, “domestic and family violence” and “domestic abuse”.’
White Ribbon Australia expands the definition of DV further:
Domestic violence refers to violence, abuse and intimidation between people who are or have been in an intimate relationship. The perpetrator uses violence to control and dominate the other person. This causes fear, physical harm and/or psychological harm. Domestic violence is a violation of human rights.
Domestic violence in Australia can include:
- emotional abuse
- physical assault
- sexual assault
- verbal abuse
- financial abuse
- psychological abuse
- isolating a woman from her friends and family
- stopping a woman from practicing her religion.
To that list I would add sexual coercion based on my own experience. From the experiences of the women in my support group I could add a whole heap of other examples. Any DV survivors reading this could come up with a whole unique list of their own.
To read some chilling statistics about DV click here.
Violence is more complicated than a physical act of aggression or harm. Violence is about control, fear and causing damage. Controlling another person can wreck them emotionally and psychologically. That is damage. That is violence. Living in fear of a spouse caused me to become so scared and on edge my body started to give out. I felt at times I was dying as my short term memory left me, I developed chronic pain, I stopped being able to concentrate and I got weaker and weaker until at times I couldn’t leave my bed. That is damage and that is violence. I became suicidal as I grappled with all my “mental illnesses” and the burden I felt I had become to everyone around me. That is violence against the self caused by the mistreatment of another.
I am incredibly lucky that my abuser wasn’t physically violent. The statistics for death and injury against women by their partners is devastating. I am grateful of that and always will be. Yet I still suffered immensely. I was violated, controlled, psychologically manipulated and tortured and it was its own kind of violence that almost took my life. That’s why I refer to myself as a survivor of domestic violence.