The terminology around domestic violence can seem confusing and although many of them essentially mean the same thing it is important to understand them and some people have a preference for one rather than another.

  • Domestic Violence
  • DV – an abbreviation of domestic violence
  • Domestic Family Violence
  • DFV – abbreviation of domestic family violence
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Family Abuse
  • Domestic Family Abuse
  • DFA – abbreviation of domestic family abuse.
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • IPV – abbreviation of intimate partner violence
  • Childhood Domestic Violence
  • Spousal Abuse
  • Domestic Terrorism

Even as I write this I am unsure whether or not to include Violence Against Women (VAW) because I think of this as violence outside of partner and family. Is this just my perception?

Know the terminology.

There may be others I have not heard. It may seem confusing to have so many different names for what essentially seems to mean the same thing. I think the most important thing is to know the terminology. If we get too caught up in using the ‘correct’ term we are missing the opportunity for a deeper conversation.

I often use different terms depending on whom I am speaking with or writing for. Sometimes it comes downs to something as simple as word count.

Psychological abuse does feel violent.

Often I will use the word abuse because the word violence tends to bring up images of physical violence, excluding thoughts of other types of abuse. There is a tendency to think psychological abuse is not violent. I can state unequivocally that it can feel very violent. But, for me, the most important thing is to use terminology that engages people.

What is an acceptable term?

When I look at the list none of them truly reflects the horrors I went through behind closed doors, none of them seem overly relatable. Although I do not know a term which could. How do you find an acceptable term to describe something so unacceptable?

So, I use whichever term the organisation or person I am talking to is more comfortable with. Because the conversation is difficult and the more at ease we can feel the better. And I know my opinion is just that, an opinion.

Engagement in the discussion is good.

I can understand some people will feel strongly about one term over another and I think having strong feelings is good it means they engaged in wanting to help bring about change. But, it is important we don’t get too caught up in semantics because if we do we are simply being distracted from what really matters and that must be reducing the horrifying rates of abuse worldwide.

So, call it what you will; I am in for the long haul, to help organisations know how to change their culture and become part of the solution. Because unfortunately, it is going to be a long haul. But, the world is changing rapidly and that so much better than where we were a decade ago.