If you have been the victim of violence or abuse by your partner and you have decided you are ready to leave the relationship, there are a number of ways the law can help to protect you. These include obtaining a Domestic Violence Protection Order, making a claim for Victims Assistance and initiating family law proceedings in relation to children or property. There are also steps you can take to make giving evidence in court less intimidating and services you can access to help with the practicalities around leaving the abusive situation.
What if I am scared to give evidence against my ex?
If you are seeking a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) against your partner, you may be required to give evidence about the history of violence against you. Giving evidence usually means attending court and telling your story in the witness box. However, if you have a good reason to be afraid of attending court and being in the same room as your partner or ex-partner, you can obtain an order to be treated as a Protected Witness.
Under Section 150 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act, the court can make an order that a Protected Witness can give evidence in any of the following ways, depending on what is appropriate in the circumstances:
• From outside the courtroom by audio-visual link;
• From outside the courtroom and the evidence be recorded and replayed in the courtroom;
• From behind a screen or one-way glass so you cannot see the respondent;
• In the courtroom, while the respondent is held in a room outside the courtroom and watching your evidence on audio-visual link;
• Accompanied by a person to give you emotional support;
• In any other way the court considers appropriate.
These orders can be made in respect of the aggrieved (person seeking the DVPO), a child involved in the proceeding, or an associate of the aggrieved. This means that if you need to call friends or family members to give evidence in support of your application and they also feel intimidated by the respondent, they can also ask to be treated as Protected Witnesses.
If you have reported violence to the police and they have laid charges, it is likely that you will be summonsed to give evidence in court. If you are fearful of facing your ex in court to give evidence in a criminal proceeding, you can ask the prosecution to apply for you to give evidence as a Special Witness. This may mean giving evidence via an audio-visual link or from behind a screen in the courtroom (Evidence Act, Section 21A).
Victims Assist runs a Victim Coordination Program, which can support you through the process of giving evidence.
How can I get accommodation?
There are emergency accommodation facilities that provide short-term accommodation for people fleeing domestic violence.
If you need to apply for government housing, make sure the housing department is aware of your situation and provide them with as much evidence as you can in support of your housing application. If you have a DVPO or statements have been made to police, provide copies of these along with your application for housing.
What if I have no money?
Victims Assist Queensland provides financial assistance to victims of violent crime. If you have sustained serious injury as a result of violent offences against you, or if you have been the victim of repeated violence, you may be eligible for financial assistance under this scheme. The amount of assistance you are eligible to receive will depend on the extent of the injuries or other losses you have sustained, such as loss of income or money spent on medical treatment. Injuries can be either physical or psychological, or a combination of both.
If you require assistance with urgent and immediate expenses, such as the costs of leaving the violent relationship and setting up a new home, you can include these details in your application and they will be assessed on an urgent basis.
Victims Assist can award up to $6000.00 in assistance for urgent and immediate expenses.
How can I access counseling?
There are a number of free counselling services for victims of domestic and family violence in Queensland. It may also be possible for you to obtain an award through Victims Assist, for payment of the costs of any counseling you require in the future as a result of the violence.
What about my pets?
If you are leaving a domestic violence situation and have pets that you don’t want to leave behind, contact DV Connect to talk about their Pets in Crisis Program. This is a service that helps by providing temporary care for pets while you are staying in a shelter or during the transitional period while you are setting up another home.
If you require legal advice or assistance please contact Go To Court Lawyers.