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Social responses that excuse men’s violence

Because domestic violence is built on ideas of father’s authority over mothers, other people may agree with a father’s use of violence, abuse and control. This can justify his behaviour. These attitudes are likely to be quite subtle. Be curious about ‘social responses’ to his violence. This will help you to understand how other people may be reinforcing or challenging his violence.

There are many individual and larger social factors that excuse, ignore or relieve fathers of their responsibility for their violence. These factors may also actively support the gender imbalance that enables violence to continue unchecked.

Your role is to actively hold fathers to account and to create safety for children and their mothers. This may mean that at times you will need to challenge the attitudes of some services and systems that perpetuate a culture of minimising father’s violence or victim blaming.

It also means that you will need to consider your own biases and assumptions about gender and violence. At times, these can be so ingrained by society that they can be difficult to uncover.


‘My dad would tell us that my mum made him angry and that’s why he acted like that. I knew that wasn’t right.’

Spence Coffey, D (2009) Parenting after violence: A guide for practitioners. Institute for Safe Families, Philadelphia, Penn. 

Societal factors that excuse violence

There are various ways in which society can excuse a violent father’s behaviour. These


  • talking and thinking about his violence as being ‘an argument between a couple’ (This is ‘mutualising’—sharing the blame for the violence.)
  • minimising his intention towards and power over the mother by saying it’s a ‘violent relationship’
  • excusing violence on the basis of religious beliefs that condone or excuse control over mother
  • having rigid gender roles and identities that do not support gender equality—fathers are seen as socially superior and mothers are seen as needing to accommodate their needs
  • underestimating the damage of the various forms of violence such as control, threats, name calling and sexual harassment
  • normalising violence through exposure to violence against mothers in families, communities, friendship groups or through the media.

Ted Talk Jackson Katz: Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue

Jackson Katz: Violence against women-it's a men's issue

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