“What’s wrong with her, and why doesn’t she leave?”

March 20, 2016

In a 2014 Australian study, acts of physical abuse, sexual assault and verbal threats towards one’s partner or child were identified as family or domestic violence by over 96 per cent of respondents. Only 64 per cent of respondents to this study recognised other common attempts to establish power and control over a partner or family member as domestic violence. These forms of control include monitoring a partner’s communication or extreme financial restrictions (Anglicare WA, 2014).

Sixty-four per cent? Well, I am sure 100 per cent of those suffering at the hands of controlling partners would vehemently disagree with the 36 per cent who think it’s perfectly normal to tap a partner’s phone or limit their access to their own money. I can’t give you statistics of how many people have suffered at the hands of a controlling partner because, well, there aren’t any. Most statistics are gathered due to actions that are against the law, such as physically violent behaviour. Being a narcissist is not illegal; however, narcissism is considered one of the leading controlling behaviours behind an epidemic that is frankly embarrassing to our country.

So what else is threatening our nation if it’s not physical violence? I call it Family Control or Controlling Behaviours.

I’ll make a list here, see if you recognise any of these:

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Chronic criticism—even if it’s ‘small’ things
  • Veiled or overt threats, against you or them
  • Making acceptance/caring/attraction conditional
  • An overactive scorecard – keeping tally of every last interaction within your relationship
  • Using guilt as a tool
  • Creating a debt you’re beholden to
  • Spying, snooping, or requiring constant disclosure
  • Overactive jealousy, accusations, or paranoia
  • Not respecting your need for time alone
  • Making you “earn” trust or other good treatment.
  • Presuming you guilty until proven innocent
  • Getting you so tired of arguing that you’ll relent
  • Making you feel belittled for long-held beliefs
  • Making you feel you don’t “measure up” or are unworthy of them
  • Teasing or ridicule that has an uncomfortable undercurrent
  • Inability or unwillingness to ever hear your point of view
  • Sexual interactions that feel upsetting afterwards
  • Pressuring you toward unhealthy behaviors, like substance abuse
  • Thwarting your professional or educational goals by making you doubt yourself

Well, that’s a long list and I haven’t even scratched the surface, these are generally considered forms of emotional and psychological abuse. Have you heard of financial abuse? These 6 are very common, again, have you experienced this?

  • Forced Career Choices
  • Every Penny Spent Is A Penny Tracked
  • No Bank Accounts – This one is unbelievably common!
  • Threats Of Leaving with no money
  • Lazy Bum – Deadbeat – My Woman-Is-My-Momma Syndrome
  • Forced Family – continuing pregnancy

Recently in the UK a law was passed, big congratulations to them, of a maximum sentence of 5 years for controlling behaviours that also include monitoring of social media accounts, control of who a partner sees and what they wear. I wish Australia was as progressive.


dv 1

Now, the common knee jerk reaction is “why doesn’t she leave?” Here’s one example of why:

Imagine for a moment a woman has released herself from a toxic and controlling relationship – what next? She certainly doesn’t qualify for any of the emergency women’s shelters as her life isn’t in any apparent imminent danger, so she decides to go out on her own, a new life free from control.

She applies for a rental, uh-oh, she has no rental history as her husband/partner wouldn’t allow her to be on any tenancy agreement. She needs to take a bit of time off work to do this; her boss gives her grief for taking (legal) annual leave, so now her job is in danger. She sits down with the estate agent and explains her situation; said estate agent takes pity and says having no tenancy history is fine as long as she can pay the bond and four weeks upfront. Right, great … Hmm, she applies for a credit card, oops, she has no credit history as all credit cards were in her husband/partner’s name. She gets declined, do you see a cycle here? She returns to the controlling home as she has no way to break free from it. (She then calls her electricity company to update some details, oops, can’t talk to her, her name isn’t on the bill – “Can your husband/partner call and make the changes please?”)

Family Control may not leave a mark on her face, but it leaves a long-lasting emotional, psychological and complex mark on any future decision, a woman trying to leave, makes.
Not only do we need to look at how to stop the epidemic of death currently occurring in Australia but we need to be looking at stemming the behaviours that escalate into the increasing numbers of deaths.


  • If you feel you need to find somewhere safe Jan can be contacted on 02 9599 3217 or email at
  • If you or somebody you know is in immediate danger, call ​000 now.
  • 1800 RESPECT – 24 hour hotline for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence. Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit their website.
  • Safe Steps is a 24 hour family violence response centre. Call 1800 015 188 or visit their website.
  • Lifeline provides all Australians with access to 24 hour crisis support & suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14 or visit their website.
  • Relationships Australia provides support services for individuals, families and communities. Call 1300 364 277 or visit their website.

A social media whiz and travel insurance guru Katie always enjoys a fierce and intelligent debate with any worthy opponent. A supporter of social justice Katie writes a Domestic Violence column (or as she refers to it as “Family Terrorism”) for the South Sydney Herald as well as curates her own community Facebook Page We Can Do Better which focuses on information sharing on subjects close to her heart, equality, domestic violence, feminism and social justice.

An active member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby (newly involved) Katie plans on using her experience to further man-kind, ok woman-kind. Ok, she’s not that egotistical! She aims to help others find their voice against daily adversity. A mad LOTR’s fan she often quotes Gandalf “ I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.

There aren’t many Facebook threads, showing the worst of society, that Katie can walk past and each time she enters the void she remembers Robert Kennedy: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

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