Domestic & Family Violence
The correct use of language around domestic and family violence is important, along with the various types of violence which tell of the wide-ranging avenues for abuse. The way in which violence is referred to has impacts on the way it is understood and responded to by the Western Australian community. Currently, language is more often than not used to minimise and misrepresent violence and its impacts (Coates & Wade, 2007).
What is 'Violence'?
Violence has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2002, p5) as:
“The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”
It is important to note that in this definition of violence it is viewed as an intentional act which involves planning and premeditation to harm. This definition is at odds with perpetrator responses to their own violence as “blind rage” and as having spontaneous outbursts of violence towards others. Violence is calculated and in the case of domestic & family violence, is often patterned.
What is 'Domestic & Family Violence'?
Domestic violence refers to intimate partner violence (IPV) where family violence is a broader term that covers the entire family. The following definition was taken from the Western Australian Strategic Plan for Family and Domestic Violence 2009-2013 (‘the state plan’) and defines family and domestic violence as:
“the intentional and systematic use of violence and abuse to create fear and to control the victim’s behaviour. Multiple forms of abuse characterise the experience resulting in physical and sexual and/or psychological damage, forced social isolation, economic deprivation, or behaviour which causes the victim to live in fear. The term family and domestic violence usually refers to abuse against an intimate partner, while family violence is a broader expression encompassing family and domestic violence and the abuse of children, and other family members” (Department for Child Protection, 2012b, p2).
Aboriginal Family Violence
The latter definition of family violence is more representative of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldview. The state plan emphasises the need for an awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perceptions of violence if it is to be addressed adequately. The mainstream understanding of domestic and family violence which focuses on power and control in intimate relationships is a narrower concept than family violence for Indigenous people as it is embedded in a social context of colonisation, loss of culture and poverty (Taylor, Cheers, Weetra & Gentle, 2004). Instances of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities must be understood as being affected by past events.
This understanding will help in the demonstration of culturally sensitive practice when working with Aboriginal children and young people and their mother/carer who have experienced violence.
Use of the term “family violence” and not “domestic violence” demonstrates how violence in the extended family network between grandparents, uncles, cousins etc. affects both the family and individuals and is much broader than the mainstream perspective. “Family violence” also highlights the fragmentation of the holistic relationship between spiritual, cultural and environmental dimensions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life that has taken place since colonisation (Hovane & Cox, 2011).
If you don't know about Aboriginal history or culture, get an adult to help you look at the Creative Spirits website: http://www.creativespirits.info/
 In these definitions ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ will be used instead of ‘Indigenous’ as it is more accurate and respectful. In the case that researchers cited in these definitions have used the term ‘Indigenous’, the webpage author will also use it.