The concept of “domestic violence” is not new, however the formulation of a system of rules governing how you can behave in a domestic relationship is. It has never been OK to be physically or emotionally abused by your spouse. However, legislators in times gone by resisted intervening in domestic abuse situations as many “voters” regarded it as an unwelcomed intrusion into their personal lives.
The New Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012
Historically, in order to get police protection from an abusive spouse, the victim would be required to make a complaint and, if the matter proceeded as far as the Courts, give evidence against their abuser. The difficulty with that procedure was that many victims abandoned their allegations when their spouse professed their undying love for them, or even worse, threatened them with further violent acts if their allegations were not withdrawn. The introduction of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act in 1989 closed that legal loophole.
The Act was amended in 2012 and now more accurately reflects contemporary understandings of domestic and family violence. The legislation seeks to reduce and ultimately prevent domestic violence, provide adequate protection for victims of domestic violence and ensure people who commit acts of domestic violence are held accountable for their actions.
The new Act catches a greater range of “relevant relationships”, including same-sex relationships and even “one night stands” where the “one night stand” produces a child. The Act expands the definition of Domestic Violence and increases the safety, protection and wellbeing of people who fear or experience domestic violence. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, but statistics demonstrate that domestic violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women with whom they are in an intimate relationship. It is also common for children of that relationship to be exposed to domestic violence. As we have recently witnessed, the consequences of not reporting domestic violence can be fatal.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence as it is defined in the legislation encompasses a broad range of behaviours. The most well known form of domestic violence is assault – where one person touches, or threatens to touch another without their consent, but domestic violence also includes damage to property; emotional and psychological abuse (including threats of self harm if you “leave”); coercing someone to engage in a sexual activity; economic abuse (eg. denying a person financial independence, or threatening to withhold child support); stalking/conducting unauthorised surveillance of a person; or any other behaviour which controls or dominates another person causing that person to fear for their safety or wellbeing.
Domestic violence only occurs within the context of a relevant relationship. A relevant relationship includes spousal relationships, family relationships (a relative), or an informal care relationship. The first two are self explanatory, but an informal care relationship exists between two persons, where one person depends on the other for help in an activity of daily living.
In non life threatening situations an “aggrieved person” (the victim) can apply for a protection order under the Act by attending the nearest Court and completing an application, detailing the allegations of domestic violence. In more serious cases where police are called to a house after a report of domestic violence, the Act requires the police to investigate the incident and provides them with the authority to detain a “respondent” (the perpetrator) for up to eight (8) hours while they complete an application for a protection order.
Where an application for protection under the Act has been granted, it affords the following protection to aggrieved persons:
- orders the respondent to be of good behaviour toward you;
- prohibits further acts of domestic violence against you or named persons on the Order (family, friends etc.) by making a breach of the order a criminal offence with more severe punishment;
- prevents the perpetrator from attending certain premises, or places;
- provides the police and/or the Court with the power to evict a perpetrator from their home temporarily or until the Court proceedings are finalised; and
- any other orders as the Court see fit with the safety, protection and wellbeing of victims of Domestic Violence of paramount importance.
All acts of domestic violence should be reported to the Queensland Police. The Queensland Police receive specific training in identifying acts of domestic violence and have the power to hold a person in custody until appropriate protection for the victim can be put in place.
The common thread in domestic violence matters is power and control. One person is attempting to exert power or control over another, either physically or emotionally. An important step in preventing further acts of domestic violence is wrestling back that power and control. A simple way of achieving that is by not responding to that text message – don’t fuel the fire.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you should immediately contact the Police. If you have been accused of committing acts of domestic violence then we encourage you to seek legal representation. We also encourage you to make contact with the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre, which has been operating on the Gold Coast since 1992 and offers counselling to victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
The article is intended to offer simple explanations to frequently asked questions about Domestic Violence and what practical impact, if any, the new Act has on domestic relationships. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as same as it does not answer questions specific to your situation.