The contextual experiences of long term abuse and the impact on the psychological wellbeing of women is an essential consideration to self-defence (and other protective mechanisms). The law needs to make provision for women who kill their partner when they believe that it is the only option available to them to protect themselves or their children.
Consideration needs to be given to systems of power and oppression and how they impact on women’s experiences of violence. To do this effectively, an intersectional approach must be taken, wherein gender is recognized as only one aspect of many identities via which women experience oppression and disempowerment. If the Action Plan fails to appreciate and address the ways in which different types of oppression impact on women’s experience of violence, then it will be failing the women in our community who are already the most disempowered.
The current Child Support system is failing to adequately provide policies and processes that address domestic and family violence therefore women who have experienced such violence may not receive the specialised services that they require. Women who have experienced domestic or family violence are often uncomfortable self-identifying as a victim or asking for special assistance. Their own safety and wellbeing, and that of their children, is typically their priority, often to the detriment of their financial security, which may lead to reluctance in pursuing options that risk exacerbating an already dangerous situation.
Policies aimed at reducing domestic violence must address the contributing factors to domestic violence in society, including the influence of family and early childhood experience, unequal power relations between the genders, the value of women’s work, negative attitudes regarding women, religious, institutional responses and support networks. Adequate policies must aim to reduce the tendency for men to have greater leverage for coercive control, strengthen early intervention initiatives to decrease intergenerational transmission of violence and strengthen the capacity of victims to leave domestic violence and avoid future abusive relationships.
Domestic and family violence is a complex and serious social problem which affects individuals, families, communities, the workplace and the economy. Changes to the welfare system coupled with cutting back relevant support services will ultimately lead to an increase of domestic violence and abuse.