What Happens When Women Speak Up About Intimate Partner Violence?

December 20, 2017

The STOP Domestic Violence Conference 2017 highlighted yet again that domestic violence knows no social, economic or religious boundaries[1]. I spoke on intimate partner violence in Christian families, the responses of churches and the need for churches to review their role as contributory factors to abuse[2].

Immediately after the presentation, and in the two days following, I have had women reach out to me, sharing their stories and the stories of other women who have felt conflicted over abuse in consideration of religious beliefs and who have felt ignored or discarded by their local church communities. Some women shared, too, the spiritual and practical assistance provided by local faith communities but all talked of the consequences that they and their children faced when they, as women who have suffered intimate partner violence, chose to speak out.

The STOP Domestic Violence then has been significant in providing a national platform for those who work with domestic violence, who research the conflict, for service providers – and for women themselves. Domestic violence is gendered violence[3], in faith communities as my research shows, and in all communities, as highlighted by much of the research presented at the conference.

What Happens When Women Speak Up About Intimate Partner Violence?

And when women speak up? The abusive partner fears losing control and takes steps to punish the woman for moving on and for daring to speak up for other women, against abuse. He threatens. He tries to manipulate the children. he generates fear in the woman, he implies possible legal action, so much so that she almost stops speaking up. For herself, and for others.

This is why the STOP Domestic Violence conference was and is significant. Women speak up, their stories are told. Solutions and services and research are described.

To speak up is to raise awareness. To name abuse, for those who are able, for those who are safe (for safety of women and children is of prime importance) is to give it less power.

The conference empowers those who have experienced intimate partner violence, domestic violence, and those who work to fight domestic violence, to overcome the gender inequity that leads to violence. From faith communities to workplaces to schools to sporting clubs to the wide community. The STOP Domestic Violence Conference 2017 was a powerful, empowering, significant platform that is needed and continues to be needed.

This article was kindly provided by Leonie Westenberg, University of Notre Dame, Australia, School of Philosophy and Theology, Sydney Campus

[1] Barnes, BM (2001) Family violence knows no cultural boundaries. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences 93(1): 11–14.

[2] VicHealth (2017) Violence against women in Australia. An overview of research and approaches to primary prevention, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne, 18-19.

[3] Our Watch, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and VicHealth (2015) Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, Our Watch, Melbourne.


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