Family and intimate partner violence is a gendered issue
Because family and intimate partner violence is about one person exercising their power over the other person or people, the fact that men have historically held greater social, political and economic power than women has strong links to the higher proportion of men who perpetrate abuse against their partners.
Some women perpetrate violence against their partners (female or male) or against other members of their household. However, the vast majority of intimate partner violence is directed against women by their current or ex male partners (husband, de facto partner, boyfriend or lover). Furthermore, men’s violence is more severe, frequent, and is embedded within a significant range of other behaviours of power, control, and coercion (see below for full consideration of these abusive behaviours).
Because of this high level of men’s violence and abuse against women, family and intimate partner violence is considered a gendered issue; that is, it is something that largely affects women, often in significant and life changing ways, and is largely perpetrated by men. There are, of course, other power inequalities in our society that are also significant factors in intimate or family relationships, such as sexuality and ethnicity. Factors such as colonisation, racism, heterosexism and homophobia can contribute to people’s vulnerability and disadvantage in relation to others.
Perpetrators may also use these racial or homophobic prejudices to justify their behaviour, or to gain greater power over their partners.
The presence of these power inequalities in our society reveals the large-scale injustices that are related to family and intimate partner violence.
The relationship between these social inequalities and family violence does not mean that this type of violence is inevitable within particular households or relationships, nor does it justify the use of violence and abuse. Rather, it reveals that violence and abuse at an intimate and family level is strongly related to systems or patterns of power and control at a broader socio-political level.