The Deafening Silence on the Issue of Ethnic Family Violence

By Emilie Abou Abdallah

Domestic Family Violence (DFV) occurs when someone (usually men) thinks they have the right to control partners, children, the elderly, and especially women in the family. Mainly, it’s because men have grown up believing they have the authority to control their women in everything which lead to physical, social, sexual, financial, and psychological abuse.

The statistics have revealed that one of three women has experienced violence and a woman is killed almost every week by a partner or ex-partner in Australia.

“Let’s Change The story” that can be watched below gives an insight into this process:

“Normalisation of gender inequality, sexist gender norms, stereotyped gender role, harmful and rigid constructions of masculinity and femininity, sexist practices and behaviour, social norms, structures, control, disrespect, inequality, hostility, behaviour that is tolerated by friends and disrespect are the roots for developing domestic family violence.”

DFV is widespread among different cultures and background and it’s not a private and community matter. It is everyone’s business. DFV’s mental and physical impact is enormous and dangerous not only on women but definitely on their children’s development too.

As for the ethnic women who experience DFV due to their “visible differences”, the impact can be even bigger due to cultural, religious, and educational restrictions that are imposed on them. Negative stereotypes of ethnic women are used to identify them as not belonging to the social norms and therefore they are rejected through discrimination and racism. They have to deal not only with gender inequality, but also with discrimination against their ethnicity at the workplace.

Due to restrictions on education and employment for women and the lower levels of English proficiency, some women who experience DFV, especially refugees who don’t have little or no family support, find it hard to have access to services, education, employment, and income which lead to their highly dependency on the males in the family and isolation. Ignorance about other cultures increases prejudice and racism towards certain ethnicities which leads to the exclusion from the wider society and further exposes them to isolation, social scaling, and mental health deterioration.

Like any survivors of domestic family violence, ethnic women who suffer from DFV are likely to develop mental health issues like depression, sleeping disturbance, anxiety and fear which will impact negatively on their immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems. Some victims may feel drifted towards unfavourable activities such as gambling, alcoholism, substance abuse, and smoking to escape and manage their stress and isolation.

Spreading awareness about harmful assumptions and racial stereotyping about immigrant and refugee women as well as about gender inequality and its impact on women in general, would prevent/reduce violence against women in Australia.

The media, workplaces, and schools should pilot programs and workshops regarding this matter to halt this social injustice. These women have been traumatised enough through by unfortunate circumstances like the displacement from their countries and the ordeal of escaping wars and being uprooted from their lands and families. If we need to have a country where equality is granted to everyone, with zero tolerance to violence, and great inclusiveness, we need to open the eyes of the public on the suffering of women who come from certain cultures, acknowledge their strengths, skills, and education and embrace their differences.

Author: Emilie Abou Abdallah


Emilie believes that  learning is a lifelong process, and everyone should embrace any opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge. She inherited that mentality from her mother who supported all sorts of education and considered them as essential tools that every person must have to face the world.

Emilie is passionate about advocating for gender equality to prevent domestic family violence. She truly believes that every woman, regardless of her race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age, and/or disabilities  should be respected by her partner and has the right to live peacefully and without any fear or violence with her children at home.  She is convinced that by spreading awareness about gender equality at schools and among communities, we would be able to prevent and reduce domestic family violence and the future would be a safer place for the new generation. She knows well that it is a very long goal, but at the same time, she trusts that with the perseverance of advocates in this area, changes will happen.

Emilie has been involved in promoting Women’s Mental Health and self-care for about 3 years and has a support group assisting women in the Arabic Speaking Community.

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