#29 Systemic Sexism and Gaslighting Domestic Abuse Survivors with Teri Yuan

WARNING: Sensitive topics discussed in this episode (but no graphic details have been given).

Agencies that work with survivors, these people come to the table with deaf ears. Even those people, who are the closest to the survivors and the people who are being victimised, if they don’t see the need, we definitely need a signalling that shows we care, because a lot of them [survivors] I think have become resigned from giving up, recognising there is so much systemic sexism.


Domestic abuse was arguably one of the biggest issues that rapidly rose during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, gender-based violence has been occurring at alarming rates well before and the injustice that victims, disproportionately being womxn and children, face when domestic abuse cases go to court is far too common.

In the US, 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence compared to 1 in 9 men who experience the same. In the UK, according to Merseyside Police data, 95% of coercive control victims are women with 74% of perpetrators being men. Domestic violence is a product of systemic sexism as a result of patriarchy that disproportionately affects women. The situation is then exacerbated when female survivors go to family courts when their children have been abused by their male partners; in the US, mothers lose custody over their children to the abusive partner 68% of the time when she mentions child sex abuse and 57% of the time when mentioning child abuse (What Doesn’t Kill Me), labelling her as incompetent parent who failed to prioritise her child’s safety in an abusive relationship.

This gaslighting of domestic abuse survivors, specifically womxn, needs to stop, whether that’s by criminal justice systems or society collectively. We need to stop victim-blaming and engaging in rape and abuse culture by asking the sexist question “why didn’t she leave earlier?” out of the context of identifying the common factors that compel womxn survivors to remain in abusive situations to better understand how vulnerable womxn and children can be protected. This starts by establishing a culture of accountability, where not only abusers are held accountable for their actions but also the rest of society that decides to turn a blind eye on domestic abuse.

Episode Structure:

  • Explaining the need to criminalise coercive control and the underlying systemic sexism that is preventing countries like the US from criminalising it
  • Shifting focus from reforming perpetrators to prioritising the safety of female survivors and their children
  • Supporting abusive fathers in family courts being a product of systemic sexism and power dynamics established when fathers accuse mothers of alienation of children
  • Need to normalise discussion of our misogynistic and sexist society to identify victim-blaming as a serious issue
  • Importance of men speaking out about toxic masculinity being synonymous to the importance of white people speaking out about racism – communities being the perpetrators need to set the right example
  • Dangers of female “agents of patriarchy” and the urgent need of womxn supporting each other to end victim-blaming and create permanent safety nets for domestic abuse survivors
  • Redefining feminism through removing stigma associated with the movement
  • Mental/physical health support for survivors vital for long-term wellbeing e.g. ACE study and the tangible solutions it provides
  • Call for action for everyone to understand feminism better, regardless of gender or any other social categorisation
  • Need to build a culture of accountability in all parts of society and life, and understanding that not everyone can be reformed (in which case incarceration is the only option)


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