How to have a conversation with a man in your life about domestic violence.

Warning: this post discusses domestic and family violence.

Over the past four months, Australia has lost 31 women to male violence. 

Most were allegedly murdered by men they knew. Many were murdered by men they trusted. Men they loved.

These are not random homicides. They are the result of gender-based violence. These women are being murdered because they are women. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, the number of women killed in intimate partner homicides increased from 26 in the year to July 1, 2022 to 34 in the year to July 1, 2023. That's a 28 per cent increase over 12 months. 

Watch the PM talk at the weekend's No More Rally. Article continues after the video. 

Video via Instagram/@whatwereyouwearing

For those in the space, for women, it feels like we’ve been making noise for years. We’ve been screaming, begging for action, for change. Begging for our lives to matter, to be worth something. To be worth at least as much as victims of other violent crimes, such as religious terrorism or coward punches. 

We’re begging for men to understand that domestic violence is not just our problem. It's their problem too.

This year, we’re making more noise than ever. We’re speaking loudly. And often. The weekend’s incredible rallies are a testament to this. 


The problem is, most of the voices advocating against domestic and family violence are female. With a few notable exceptions, very few men openly condemn the fact that other men are killing women at a terrifying rate.

And murders are just the horrifying tip of the iceberg. Thousands more women are being terrorised in their own homes, by men they trust. By men who are supposed to love them. 

They’re being abused, assaulted, controlled, humiliated. 

And yet, domestic violence remains a women’s issue. Why? Why do men remain silent? Even the so-called 'good guys'.

Why, when we speak to many of the men (but not all!) in our lives about domestic violence, we're met with some… resistance; some discomfort. A visible hesitation in expressing their outright condemnation. 

While conversing with men who openly justify domestic violence is probably pointless, for those men in your life who are open to talking, who want to understand, here’s how to have that conversation, according to experts. 

Founder and director of Domestic Abuse Training and Resource Group, Jolene Ellat, believes that by countering these arguments with understanding, empathy, and factual information, we can work towards combating domestic violence, challenging unhealthy behaviours and work towards a safer community.

So here's how to respond:

"It’s not all men". 

"While it's true that not all men are perpetrators of domestic violence, statistics show that the majority of perpetrators are male," says Ellat. 


"However, anyone can be a victim or perpetrator regardless of gender, so it's essential to address the behaviour rather than generalise based on gender."

While it might not be all men, Leneen Forde Chair in Child and Family Research, Professor Silke Meyer says it takes all men to speak out against violence against women. 

"DFV is not a women's issue just because it primarily affects women as victim-survivors."

"Men are victims too".

Absolutely, men can be victims of domestic violence, and their experiences are valid and important. However, it's crucial to recognise that the overwhelming majority of DV cases involve female victims and male perpetrators. Bringing up male victims at every chance shifts the focus away from what has become a national emergency — men's violence against women.

"It's important to address all forms of violence but also acknowledge the societal power imbalances that often contribute to male-perpetrated violence," says Ellat.

Professor Meyer says while men are frequently victims of violence, they’re most often victimised by other men.  

"But also at times by women. And where men are genuine victims of DFV, we need to ensure we have support mechanisms accessible to men."

Professor Meyer says a common misconception is that men experience unique barriers to reporting domestic violence. 

"They don't. They experience the same challenges female victim-survivors have faces for decades — shame, stigma, victim-blaming attitudes, not being taken seriously, not being treated with respect when disclosing DFV experiences. 

"It's taken decades to at least partially address some of these issues for women reporting DFV and it will take some time for responses to male victims, too. That's the nature of our service system and how it responds to DFV."


"Women aren't a minority, why should they receive special treatment?"

Women aren't asking for special treatment, women are asking for the same right to safety and wellbeing as men. 

"Women are disproportionately affected by DFV perpetrated by men and its impacts, including injuries, hospitalisation, poor mental health outcomes, loss of employment and financial stability and not lastly death," says Professor Meyer. 

"Around 8 in 10 intimate partner homicide victims are women. And where men are the victim of intimate partner homicide, the majority is identified as the primary DFV perpetrator throughout the relationship. That's why we need to focus on women, not because women are asking for special treatment."

"Why do women put themselves in this position?"

What we should be asking is why men entrap women in these relationships. 

"Men who use violence, including non-physical violence, are rarely abusive from the beginning," says Professor Meyer. 

"They strategically lure the victim into a false sense of care and security within the relationship and slowly escalate strategies of entrapment. By the time victim-survivors recognise they're experiencing DFV, the perpetrator has usually created a web of entrapment through emotional abuse, intimidation tactics, mutual children and/ or financial dependence."

If we must talk about women's actions, we should be asking how they do manage to leave, despite the tactics employed by the perpetrator to isolate and entrap them in the abusive relationship.


"The woman probably provoked the perpetrator and he just snapped."

"We often hear this when women resist men's use of violence," says Professor Meyer. 

"By saying no to sexual demands. By articulating their intention to separate after experiencing DFV (often for years). By moving their children to safety because they start to see the effects of DFV on the children."

Breaking out of the perpetrator's web of abuse and control is not provocation, it's a protective strategy. 

"Men's escalating use of violence towards an intimate partner or ex partner is not a response to provocation, it's a response to loss of control, underpinned by a sense of entitlement."

"She hasn't experienced physical violence, so it's not abuse."

Domestic violence encompasses a range of behaviours beyond physical abuse, including emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. 

"Controlling behaviour, intimidation, and isolation are also forms of abuse that can be just as harmful. It's important to recognise and address all forms of abuse within relationships," says Ellat. 

Often, emotional abuse and controlling behaviours have far more devastating and lasting effects on adult and child victim-survivors than physical injuries. 

"And we know that coercive control is a high-risk indicator for an escalation into physical and potentially lethal violence," says Professor Meyer. 

"It's a private matter, and we should keep it within the family."

Domestic violence is not a private matter; it's a serious crime and a violation of human rights. 

"Keeping it hidden only perpetuates the cycle of abuse and prevents victims from accessing the support and resources they need to escape dangerous situations," says Ellat. 


"Reporting and addressing DFV is crucial for the safety and well-being of everyone involved."

In reality, DFV impacts everyone, and that means it's everyone’s business to end it. 

"We all have one if not multiple people in our family or social networks that have experienced DFV," says Professor Meyer. 

Similarly, most of us will come across someone who has used DFV at different points in our lives.

"Have conversations to remove the stigma around DFV and call out abusive or disrespectful behaviours, we are complicit in the silent epidemic that is the everyday reality for so many women and children."

"It’s terrible, but what can I do about it?"

Talk about it. Educate yourself. Contribute to the conversation. Advocate against domestic violence. Make it your problem. As a society, we collectively advocate for and support victims of all sorts of crimes—women deserve that support too. Before it's too late. 

Feature image: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here

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