Domestic violence among Indians in Australia: Issues and Magnitude

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What is Domestic violence

Domestic Violence is abusive behaviour by one person to control and dominate another person within an intimate or previously intimate partner relationship. It may include physical assault, psychological abuse, social abuse, economic abuse or emotional abuse.

The myth

It is generally believed that only women are the victims of domestic violence, whereas men can also be victims. Men do not prefer to admit and report domestic violence, their manly pride getting in the way. Moreover, public perception is that only women are the victims of domestic violence. Another aspect of this myth is many men do not discuss and emphasise the problem fearing they may be branded as misogynists. It is also hard for a male who feels subjected to abuse in a relationship to explain how and why he is being abused in a relationship.

Magnitude

From my interaction with community organisations, the Indian community and the office of the Consulate General it seems that domestic violence is a serious issue in the Indian Australian community. The Sydney Consul General once remarked in a social gathering that victims of domestic violence call his office nearly every day.

So far, I have not been able to get hold of any documented evidence that could provide me with some statistical figures showing the prevalence and magnitude of the incidence of domestic violence. I assume there is probably none and no such research has been undertaken. It would be worth while for someone to undertake a research project on this matter.

Is it culture specific?

While domestic violence exists in all cultural and sub-cultural groups in different proportions, it may manifest in different ways in different cultures. Some people believe that, going by anecdotal evidence, some groups within the Indian community are affected by domestic violence more than others. This could be due to the larger numbers of one particular Indian community and the circumstances of their immigration and residency status in Australia, apart from other factors.

Is it residency specific?

I have been told that usually the CG is contacted by immigrants who are not yet permanent residents in Australia. For permanent residents of Australia and citizens of this country the police or other agencies might be the first point of contact.

My guess is that since students and temporary residents are more prone to domestic violence financial pressures arising from migration and settlement, including course fees, migration agent fees, rent, daily expenses, financial commitments and debts incurred in the process of relocating to Australia etc

The causes of domestic violence could be related to the overall deterioration of the institution of family all around the world. From the Indian perspective, I could think of the following as the major causes of domestic violence:

  • Financial Stress: loss of job, obligations back in India
  • Infidelity, real or perceived
  • Psychological disorder, phobias, paranoid behaviour
  • Social stresses arising out of natural family circumstances
  • Intellectual and emotional non-compatibility
  • Interference by a close relative, mother-in-law, sister-in-law etc.
  • Marriages arising from convenience

 

The issues

Many associations are grappling with this social scourge, organising seminars and forums. All seem to be limiting themselves to victim support only.

There is also the important issue of the consequences of domestic violence to the children in a family. These young children are often helpless spectators caught in a tragic situation.

The question then is, should we limit ourselves just to victim support or go a step further to analyse the problem, identify the issues and suggest innovative approaches through community consultation and debate so that we can handle the problem through prevention and other methods designed to help the victims and the community.

Published in Indian community magazine, Sydney

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