Domestic and family violence in Victoria is a serious issue. This article provides you with specific information about domestic and family violence in Victoria.
The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 is now the main legislation governing domestic and family violence in Victoria. This Act recognises that family violence is not just physical but also includes economic, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.
The Victorian Government made clear that the three main aims of the Act are the following:
- Maximise the safety of children and adults who have experienced family violence;
- Prevent and reduce the occurrence of family violence; and
- Promote the accountability of perpetrators of such violence and hold them accountable for their actions.
What is family violence?
Section 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 defines “family violence” as behaviour towards a family member that is physically, emotionally, sexually, economically or psychologically abusive. It includes behaviour that is threatening, coercive, controlling, or dominating.
The definition of family violence also includes cases where a child witnesses any of these behaviours. An example would be when a child sees one family member assault another family member.
Another example of family violence in Victoria is if a child cleans up after a family member has intentionally damaged the property of another family member.
Family violence is defined broadly in Victoria to include intentional damage to property as well as threats to do so. It also includes causing the death or injury to an animal, regardless of whether the animal belongs to a family member, so long as the violence was directed to control, dominate, or coerce a family member.
Who are family members?
The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 provides a list of persons who fall within the definition of a “family member”. For the purposes of domestic and family violence in Victoria, a family member means:
- A spouse, including former spouses;
- A domestic partner, including former domestic partners. A domestic partner is a person who is not married to the family violence perpetrator but who has a personal or financial commitment and support of a domestic nature with that person. It is irrelevant whether they live in the same home and includes same-sex partners;
- A person who has or has previously had an intimate personal relationship with the family violence perpetrator. An intimate relationship does not have to be sexual in nature;
- A relative, such as a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, sibling, and cousin;
- A child who normally lives or used to live with the family violence perpetrator; and
- A child of someone who has or previously had an intimate relationship with the family violence perpetrator.
Family member also means someone you regard as being like family under the Act. To determine whether the other person can be reasonably regarded as being like a family member the court will look at various factors. These factors are whether you live together, the social and emotional nature of your relationship, and the duration of the relationship.
For example, a long relationship between a carer and a person with a disability may be considered to be a family like relationship.
What is economic abuse?
Family violence is defined broadly in Victoria and includes economic abuse. Economic abuse refers to behaviour which shows that a person has tried to unreasonably control another family member’s economic or financial autonomy.
For behaviour to be classified as economic abuse, it must be done without your consent.
An example of economic abuse is when one family member withholds financial support that is needed to meet the living expenses of the other family member. Other examples may be where the abuser prevents a family member from seeking employment or preventing them from accessing property that is jointly held.
What is emotional or psychological abuse?
Emotional or psychological abuse is behaviour which torments, intimidates, harasses or is otherwise offensive to another family member. It includes persistent derogatory insults, threats to disclose personal information about your sexual orientation, and preventing you from maintaining connections with friends or other family members.
Where can I seek help if I am experiencing family violence?
If you are experiencing family violence you should seek help immediately by contacting a lawyer or the police. They can help you apply for a Family Violence Intervention Order to prevent a family member from committing family violence against you.
Such orders include a range of conditions that, if breached, can lead to a criminal charge. Information on how to apply for an intervention order can be obtained in our dedicated article, Family Violence Intervention Order in Victoria.