In the last few years, there has been an increase in reports and discussions across various social and media platforms about domestic violence. And rightly so. The statistics are grim. It affects men and women. Children. Families. The community as a whole.
Where do you live?
Where do you work?
How much money do you have?
How old are you?
Do you drive a car?
What is your cultural background?
What are your religious beliefs?
The answers to these questions really aren’t that important when it comes to determining whether you’re at risk of experiencing domestic violence. The answers to these questions are not actually determinative factors.
That’s because there are no gender, age or cultural boundaries to domestic and family violence.
The effects of family violence can be devastating. Far-reaching. Short- and long-term. Physical, psychological, social and also economic.
However, to have awareness, you first need understanding of just what domestic violence is.
Do you actually know what domestic violence is? Could you recognise it if you were in a relationship in which domestic violence was present? Domestic violence is also known as family violence. The names are interchangeable.
It is sometimes described as being a pattern of abusive behavior, this is not always the case.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) defines family violence as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces (forces) or controls a member of the person’s family”.
Domestic or family violence is not just physical violence.
Family violence can occur between a couple who are married or in a de facto relationship.
Family violence can occur in same sex relationships.
Family violence can be perpetrated by a woman or a man against their spouse or partner. It can include violence against children.
The definition of what constitutes family violence is very broad.
Behaviour that might amount to family violence includes:
- Physical violence – direct assaults (hitting, kicking, spitting, choking); use of weapons; dangerous driving; destruction of property; abuse of pets in front of family members; assault of children; sleep deprivation and excluding a person from their home.
- Sexual violence – sexual activity without consent; causing pain during sex; assaulting the genitals; forced sex without protection against pregnancy or STD’s; making the victim perform sex acts unwillingly; criticizing or using sexually degrading or humiliating insults; rape.
- Financial control – complete control of all money; no access to bank accounts; providing insufficient funds to meet day-to-day expenses; taking the victim’s wages for personal use or household expenses.
- Emotional abuse – psychological abuse; blaming the victim for all the problems in the relationship; constantly comparing the victim to others to undermine their self-esteem and self-worth; periodic sulking; withdrawing all interest and engagement (for weeks at a time); threats to commit suicide or self-harm if you leave; makes the victim feel guilty.
- Verbal abuse – continual put downs and insults, privately or publicly; attacks that follow clear themes and focus on intelligence, sexuality, body image and capacity as a parent and spouse.
- Social isolation – complete isolation from friends and family through techniques such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends; moving to a location where the victim doesn’t know anyone and forbidding or preventing the victim from going out and meeting people; preventing someone from attending their place of worship; makes the victim feel guilty.
- Property damage (see: physical violence)
- Threats to harm
But what does this have to do with family law cases? Isn’t family or domestic violence a criminal matter?
Firstly, an intervention (restraining) order is an order made under civil law, not criminal law.
An intervention order is not a criminal order. However it may lead to criminal charges if the order is breached (if the person named for protection in the order reports the breaches).
Secondly, when making parenting orders – the Family Court will take into account any intervention orders that involve the child or a member of the child’s family. When making orders relating to children, the court will make the orders it considers to be in the best interests of the children, but which “protect the children from physical or psychological harm or from being subjected to, or exposed to, abuse…. or family violence”.
The existence of family violence in a relationship may have an impact on the orders a Court will make in parenting disputes.
- In some circumstances, where there are more serious cases of violence:
- the court may temporarily suspend contact, until suitable arrangements are put in place to accommodate changeover; or
- In extreme circumstances, may order contact should not occur.
- When there parenting orders have already been made, the court may vary the orders to make alternate arrangements for changeover for contact to occur.
What about in property matters where there aren’t any children?
In family law cases for property matters but where there are no children, you should seek legal advice as to your specific circumstances and what factors the court will take into account.
If you experience domestic violence and require police assistance:
Call 000 if the situation is an emergency.
Call 131 444 if the situation is not urgent.
Family Violence Investigation Section (metropolitan) – call your local service area:
Eastern Adelaide, phone 8172 5890
Elizabeth, phone 8207 9381
Holden Hill, phone 8207 6150
Western Adelaide, phone 8207 6413
South Coast, phone 8392 9172
Sturt, phone 8207 4801.
If you live in the country contact the Family Violence Investigation Section at your local police station.
Counselling and emergency accommodation:
Crisis Care on 131 611 outside normal business hours.
Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Gateway on 1800 800 098.
DISCLAIMER: The information you read on this site is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. Sweetlove Family Law produces this information sheet for the purpose of providing general information only on relevant topics of interest in relation to Family Law. This information sheet is current at the time it is produced however you should not rely on the general information contained in this information sheet as legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice regarding your own specific circumstances.