Domestic and family violence occurs when a family member uses violence, abuse or intimidation to control or manipulate another person.
There have been many changes within these sets of laws; one such change has been redefining the term “Abuse”
Legally any form of violence towards family members is unacceptable. When a case includes certain aspects of sexual abuse, threats, stalking and more, the victim could possibly lay criminal charges. It is important to know your rights, and the rights of your family to protect everyone involved from any form of domestic family abuse.
From 7 June 2012, new legislation gives further protection to children and to parents and families who find themselves unfortunately involved with family violence.
Some of the most important amendments to the Family Law Act arise from the definition of child abuse in section 4(1) of the legislation.
“Abuse” in section 4(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 has now been redefined as follows:
abuse, in relation to a child, means:
(a) an assault, including a sexual assault, of the child; or
(b) a person (the first person) involving the child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by the first person or the other person, and where there is unequal power in the relationship between the child and the first person; or
(c) causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm, including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence; or
(d) serious neglect of the child.
The most important new aspects here are in (c) referring to the child “being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence” and (in (d)) referring to “serious neglect of the child”.
At a more general level, Section 43(ca) requires a court to have regard to the need to protect individuals from family violence in circumstances of family violence .
Physical and sexual violence between family members is subject to legal intervention in the same way as violence between strangers.
However, family violence is not just physical. It can take the form of verbal, emotional, social or psychological abuse, financial or economic deprivation, or cultural or religious abuse.
Not all aspects of family violence give rise to criminal sanctions (e.g. the law has no penalty for cultural or religious abuse), however, all aspects of family violence can be relevant to Family Court proceedings.
An Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is an order made by a court restricting the behaviour of the person you take the order out against. The purpose of an AVO is to protect you from violence, harassment or intimidation in the future. An AVO usually states that a person cannot assault, harass, threaten, stalk, or intimidate you, or go within a certain distance of your home or workplace. Other orders can be included if necessary.
An AVO made where the people involved are related, living together or in an intimate relationship, or have been in this situation earlier.
An AVO made where the people involved are not related and do not have a domestic or personal relationship, eg. they are neighbours.
All family violence is unacceptable and you can get help from services and protection from police and the courts through a Family Violence Intervention Order. In some cases, where there are criminal forms of family violence, including physical violence, sexual abuse, stalking, property damage, threats and homicide, criminal charges may also be laid.