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Violence is a choice

Father's violence is a behaviour choice

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Domestic violence is often talked about as being beyond the control of the father. Fathers may use this to excuse and justify the violence they inflict on mothers. It is unusual, however, for a father who uses violence against their partner to use violence and control in other environments, like work or social situations.

Most fathers already have the skills to be non-violent

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Most fathers who use violence already have the skills they need to be non-violent. They use these skills in many other areas of their lives, such as at work and in social situations.

The Perpetrator accountability in child protection practice guide resource sets out some examples that show how intentional a man’s violence can be. These examples include:

  • only hitting their partner in places where bruises will not show
  • pausing in a tirade of verbal abuse to answer the door or the phone, and resuming it after the interruption
  • destroying items that have particular significance to their partner
  • imposing conditions on attendance at a social event, such as their partner not talking to other men
  • whispering threats, rather than issuing them aloud where people outside the family might hear them.

Minimise, deny, excuse—how fathers avoid accountability

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The ways fathers minimise, deny or excuse their violence are called ‘violence-supporting narratives’. Along with denying or minimising the violence, fathers who use violence will often try to make it seem like the violence isn’t their fault or is only partly their fault. They may also have a very good public image, or may present very well to you as a professional.

The father may also:

  • manipulate or obscure his own responsibility by misrepresenting violent acts as the fault and responsibility of two people as opposed to his alone: ‘she made me do it’ or ‘she provoked me’. He may try to persuade you to take his side and see things from his perspective
  • minimise the impact of the violence on the children: ‘they were asleep’ or ‘they weren’t home’
  • conceal the woman’s ways of coping and how she protects herself and the children from the violence by overriding her feelings and experiences with those of his own
  • blame or claim that the mother has issues by using words like, ‘she’s crazy’ or making the violence seem like a consequence of her actions. This can also be presented in a very caring way, such as: 'I’m very worried about my partner. I don’t think she’s well, and sometimes she doesn’t tell the truth. I’d really like to get her some help’
  • blame alcohol and other drugs or external stresses, such as ‘I was drunk’, ‘she was drunk’ or ‘we’re under a lot of money pressure at the moment’. Or he may blame his violence on his mental health issues.

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