Family violence effects not only the primary victim, but also the people around them. In many cases, this includes young children. Not only is family violence deeply disturbing for children, but being exposed to it early in life can normalise it in children’s minds. In Victoria alone, between the period of 2004/2005 and 2011/2012, there was an almost 73% increase in the number of family violence incidents reported to police, and a troubling increase of almost 83% in the number of interventions orders granted by courts.
People often think of family violence as referring only to physical and sexual abuse. Increasingly, the courts and the wider community are recognising that it encompasses much more. It can be emotional or psychological abuse, financial abuse, or behaviour designed to coerce, control or dominate an individual. Feeling afraid of your partner, and the sense of “walking on egg shells” might be an indication that you are in fact in an abusive relationship.
It is often the subtler forms of domestic violence that go undetected. It is important to understand that family violence is all about control. This can be financial control, emotional control or physical control, and it is important to note behaviour such as controlling a person’s finances and withholding money or necessities are all family violence.
In Australia, two in five people over 15 have experienced family violence. Therefore, it is important to know the early signs of family violence and the proactive and reactive steps you can take to deal with it.
Read the signs
The single most important thing is to know the signs of domestic violence. Whether it be yourself, a family member or a friend, it is likely that someone in your close circle will encounter family violence at some stage in their life. Knowing the signs and being able to assist can make a tremendous difference in the short and long term.
It is important to respond when you see the signs of family violence and not to dismiss it as a “one off” event. There is a large number of organisations that cater to both males and females who are experiencing family violence. Organisations such as the 1800 Respect and DV Connect provide confidential, 24 hour a day support services to those who are directly affected by Family Violence and to people who are concerned about family violence. If you are being affected by family violence, reach out to one of these services.
Should you suspect that you are in a violent relationship or that someone you know is in a violent relationship, communication is essential. Tell someone you trust about your situation or communicate with a professional support service. Thinking you have no choice but to stay silent is part of the control your abuser is exercising over you.
Report to police
If the violent situation has progressed to a stage where you fear for your safety, then you should contact police immediately. If the police hold a genuine concern for your safety, they can bring an Intervention Order application on your behalf. If an assault has already occurred, the police will take a statement from you and may decide to lay charges.
In the event that a police intervention order is not made, you have the option of bringing an application yourself through your local Magistrates’ Court. The process is simple, and just requires you to attend your local Magistrates’ Court, where a trained member of the court can assist you with your application. Alternately, you can get a solicitor to prepare the application for you.
If the court considers that you need immediate protection, an interim (temporary) order can be made to stop the abuser from contacting you. The court will then consider the intervention order application and decide (at a later date), whether to make the order and for how long the order will be in effect.
Report any breaches
The effectiveness of an Intervention Order is dependent on you ensuring that any breach that occurs is immediately reported to the police. A breach of an order is a serious criminal offence, and in some circumstances, attracts a penalty of imprisonment.
If you need legal advice or assistance please contact Go To Court Lawyers.
By Joseph Palamara, Solicitor