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Peacemaking in relationships

With UnitingCare’s DV alert program—a program for frontline workers which focuses on how to recognise and respond appropriately to domestic and family violence—we examine the dynamics of a relationship where abuse is present.

In a relationship where there is domestic and family violence, a pattern of repeated behaviours are evident and a power imbalance exists between the two partners.

Key elements of trust and respect—which are essential foundations of a healthy relationship—do not exist; this is incredibly damaging to the relationship and means the person subjected to violence does not feel safe, accepted or secure.

This controlling behaviour occurs in different forms, including emotional and psychological, economic, sexual and physical. All tactics of the pattern interact and have profound effects on the victims. Living with domestic violence results in the person feeling fearful of their partner, and they now face a daunting number of barriers to escaping the violence. The victim’s sense of self becomes diminished and they may no longer feel confident or trust their own decision making ability. It becomes difficult to make important choices when you are feeling uncertain or indecisive.

In contrast, when we look at the dynamics of a healthy relationship, we are looking at partnerships based on equality and respect. Power and control, and the use of fear inducing tactics, are nonexistent in this relationship.

Conflict may arise but every effort is made to restore the relationship, and conflict itself isn’t seen as unhealthy as it is acknowledged as a normal and natural part of relationships. Both partners in this equal relationship will feel as though they have a voice and can speak out without fear of consequences.

Every day peacemaking may take place within this relationship to address conflict as it arises and there is motivation to restore the relationship as conflict arises. Peacemaking therefore may be viewed as deliberate action to restore peace. Actions of peacemaking may include active listening, negotiation, compassion and dialogue, and openness to one another, all undertaken with the intention to sustain the relationship and ensure a harmonious environment.

In acknowledging the terrible blight domestic violence is on our society, the actions of peacemaking are needed more than ever. Whether it be in the home, at work, or as a community member, the actions of a peacemaker provide a powerful example of how to manage and value relationships, and works towards challenging attitudes, behaviours and beliefs that normalise and tolerate domestic violence.

Karen Prestidge

Karen Prestidge is the State wide Manager Lifeline Community Recovery and Corporate Training.

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