Violent relationships come in many different forms. When a lot of people think of violence, they think of violence of a physical nature. However, domestic violence or family violence has a very broad definition, which includes emotional, psychological and economic abuse. It is important to recognise the signs of domestic violence early in order to keep yourself safe and deal with the situation appropriately.
What is family violence?
Contained with the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 is a clear definition of family violence. It can be constituted by conduct that is;
- Physically or sexually abusive;
- Emotionally abusive;
- Economically abusive; and
- Coercive, controlling or intended to dominate.
What should I do?
It is important not to ignore the red flags. Ignoring the early signs of abusive behaviour can lead to much more serious issues. Furthermore, violence towards women has a very strong correlation with mental health issues later on in life. You may have feelings of anxiety and depression that may appear to stem from other health conditions or other circumstances in your life. However the underlying cause may in fact be violence in your relationship.
If you believe that you are experiencing violence in your relationship, the first critical step is to speak to someone about what is happening.
It’s common to feel uncomfortable or ashamed to explain your situation to someone you know or even to a stranger. However there are a range of services that exist to help and support people in your situation and you can contact any of them confidentially.
1800 RESPECT is an Australian Government funded national organisation that operates 24-hours a day 7 days a week, providing emergency for women exposed to violence in the home.
Their staff offer women an opportunity to express their concerns and be informed about the various services that are offered both internally and through partner organisations. They offer a counselling service, if you find it easier to deal with someone over the phone, or alternatively can set up a referral to services near you that can assist in getting you through this difficult period in your life.
Safesteps is a Victorian violence support network for women and children. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via telephone and can respond to all aspects of family violence.
Safesteps can assist in areas such as:
- Emergency accommodation;
- Emotional support;
- Advocacy and Court support services; and
- Accommodation of women and children who are at a high risk of violence in a safe house,
Safesteps can be contacted on 1800 015 188.
If at any point you feel that your life is in immediate danger, then call 000. The Victorian Police are well equipped to respond and to deal with violence perpetrated against women and take these matters extremely seriously.
If you have been the victim of assaults or other criminal offences, consider making a complaint to the police. Police will then make a decision as to whether to lay charges against the offender and may summons you as a witness to give evidence in court.
Family and friends
One of the most important support networks is your family and friends. Family and friends can listen to your concerns and provide emotional support if you prefer not to engage any domestic violence services.
The biggest mistake that victims of family violence make is not to say anything at all. Normalising abusive behaviour and convincing yourself that the problem is you can result in the situation escalating and place you at serious risk.
Seek legal advice
There are a number of legal avenues that can be taken when you have been the victim of family violence or fear domestic violence in the future.
Family Violence Intervention Orders
If you fear the commission of domestic violence by a partner or ex-partner, or by another family member such as a parent or child, you may want to consider applying for an Intervention Order to restrict the person from contacting you or requiring them to abide by certain conditions.
Victims of Crime Compensation
If you have been the victim of serious physical violence and have sustained injuries, you may be eligible to compensation from Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. Talk to a lawyer to find out whether you are eligible and start preparing your claim.
Family law proceedings
If you are in a family violence situation and have children, you may want to consider initiating family law proceedings to formalise arrangements for the care of the children in the future. You may also benefit from advice about the potential to obtain financial orders from the Family Law Courts if you are going through a separation.
If you require legal advice in relation to a family violence matter or any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.
By Joseph Palamara, Associate