Unfortunately, domestic violence seems to be in the news, in the media, on a too regular basis.
So, what is domestic violence? Domestic violence is any behaviour that is violent, threatening, controlling or intended to make you or your family feel scared and unsafe. It may not always be physical it can happen to anyone at any time no matter your gender, age or sexual orientation. It can also happen anywhere; however, it is often at home behind closed doors or at work.
Physical violence is violent behaviour, threats or violence that can be directed at you or other persons in your family. Physical violence may include acts of slapping, hitting, biting, kicking, pushing or choking. It can also include verbal or emotional abuse. This is a behaviour that can be directed to make you feel worthless and put down and it can include insults, yelling, name calling, swearing or generally undermining your confidence. It can take the form of controlling behaviour that makes you believe and do things you normally would not. This is often referred to in the media as gas lighting. This behaviour may stop you from seeing people or leaving the house and can be directed at isolating you from the rest of society and your support and peer group.
Talking or any action that intimidates you or is in the form of harassment which may include repeated phone calls or text messages, unwanted or obsessive attention or literally following or monitoring you either in real life or in the digital world such as Facebook. Unfortunately, in this day and age, whilst computers and technology can be used as a great tool, they can if in the wrong hands be used as abuse. This could include checking your computer and phone use, using spy wear to track you or your phone or publishing intimate photos of you without your consent.
You can also be abused financially which may include isolating and limiting your access to money which then makes you dependent on the person whom is perpetrating the abuse. This could take the form of not having control of your money, being stopped from working or having to account for how you spend your money.
Unfortunately, elder abuse is becoming more prevalent in our society. This includes harmful behaviour including emotional, psychological, physical, financial, sexual or neglectful abuse or being just plain neglected.
Family and domestic violence can occur in different types of relationships. These can often include your current family relationship and who you are going out with or living with. It could also involve the carers of people with a disability or medical condition, relationships with relatives and guardians and culturally recognised family groups. Domestic violence is a basic denial of human rights and can cause significant harm. Being violent to another person is a denial of that person’s human rights and is a breach of their ability to live free without harm. Unfortunately, it can cause significant and long term psychological and physical harm to the victims of such violence. Often a break down of a family relationship or community kinship can result in poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, grieve and trauma can have everlasting effects.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, then the Police have specially trained officers to help you including domestic violence liaison officers, aboriginal community liaison officers and gay and lesbian liaison officers.
You may be able to obtain an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) which is an order made by a Court against a person to protect you from further violence, intimidation or harassment. These are orders which are made by the Court to protect you, providing that you have reasonable grounds and a generally based fear of being assaulted, harassed, threatened, stalked or intimidated. These orders must be obeyed by the person you fear and if broken then serious criminal charges can be made including jail sentences.
There are two types of AVO’s:
- An Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) which is made to protect the victim from a domestic relationship that exists between the parties; and
- An Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) which is made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic relationship such as co-workers or neighbours.
You can apply for an AVO if you are sixteen years or older and have been a victim of physical or sexual assault, threatened with physical harm, been stalked, harassed or intimidated and are of the belief that this behaviour will continue.
If you make a complaint to the police and they are of the view that it is genuine, the police will prepare an application on your behalf and serve it on the person who has caused the violence. The application nominates a court date which the defendant must attend. Sometimes if the situation is urgent then the Court can make an Interim Order to protect you if there are any adjournments in relation to any court proceedings. The Magistrate normally would need to hear some evidence from you to make an Interim Order. The Court process accommodates consent orders if both parties agree. The Court can make Interim Orders and ultimately make Final Orders. If the application for a restraining order is not agreed to then the matter will need to be set down for a hearing. At which time you would need to present your case and the defendant can then ask you and any witnesses you have questions about your evidence. The defendant then presents their case. Ultimately after the hearing the evidence of both sides, the Magistrate can then make an Order. These Orders include prohibition of behaviour such as:
- Assaulting, molesting, harassing, threatening or interfering with you;
- Acts of intimidation; and
- Stalking people you have a domestic relationship with.
Extra conditions may be placed on any Orders including preventing the person from approaching you, approaching where you live or where you work and damaging your property. If you have left personal belongings at the place where the defendant resides, you can seek a Property Recovery Order which is an order that sets out how the goods nominated should be returned. A Property Recovery Order can only be made at the same time a Provisional Interim or Final Order is made. You should therefore ensure if this is relevant that you ask for a Property Recovery Order. You will need to prepare a list of the properties you want recovered and more often then not you will need some proof that you own them.
Orders will last normally for a certain time period, for example two years. Before the period expires and if you have reasonable grounds to fear further acts of violence you can apply to the Court for an extension of those Orders.
If you require further advice you can phone the 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline, 1800 656 463 or the Child Protection Helpline, 132 111 or if you are in extreme danger then you should call 000.