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Family Violence & Understanding Family Law

written by Lucy Padula
9 · 11 · 20

For many people, including victims of family violence, being at home is not always a safe place.

Both men and women experience violence, and most men are not perpetrators of violence. However, the statistics on domestic violence, emotional abuse and murder demonstrate the prevalence and severity of violence against women in Australia.

On average, more than one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. In 2019 alone 62 women were killed by violence in Australia.

The Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence refers to violent behaviour between current or former intimate partners – typically where one partner tries to exert power and control over the other, usually through fear. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, social, verbal, spiritual and economic abuse.

Family violence is a broader term that refers to violence between family members, which can include violence between current or former intimate partners, as well as acts of violence between a parent and a child, between siblings, and more.

Almost 40% of women continued to experience violence from their partner while temporarily separated statistics shows.

Domestic and family violence can involve a range of different behaviours.

Physical abuse – including direct assaults on the body, use of weapons, driving dangerously, destruction of property, assault of children and forced sleep deprivation.

Emotional abuse – blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, withdrawing all interest and engagement (e.g. weeks of silence).

Sexual abuse – any form of sexual activity without consent, causing pain during sex, coercive sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, criticising, or using sexually degrading insults.

Social abuse – systematic isolation from family and friends through techniques such as ongoing rudeness to family and friends, moving to locations where the victim knows nobody and forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people.

Verbal abuse – continual ‘put-downs’ and humiliation, either privately or publicly, with attacks following clear themes that focus on intelligence, sexuality, body image and capacity as a family member, parent or spouse.

Spiritual abuse – denying access to ceremonies, land or family, preventing religious observance, forcing victims to do things against their beliefs, denigration of cultural background, or using religious teachings or cultural tradition as a reason for violence.

Economic abuse – complete control of all monies, no access to bank accounts, providing only an inadequate ‘allowance’.

Family Violence Increase During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay in their homes and for many exacerbated the problem of family violence. Isolation and being disconnected from their usual network of friends and relatives prevents many from seeking advice and support. We’ve received an alarming number of calls from clients who say they are struggling to find even 10 minutes to call us due to constant monitoring by their partner.

During this time, people using family violence may use COVID-19 as a tactic or reason to abuse you. For example, they may:

  • Withhold necessary items such as food, medicine, hand sanitizer or disinfectants.
  • Misinform you about the pandemic to control or frighten you.
  • Use the pandemic as an excuse to gain total or increase control of the family’s finances.
  • Threaten or prevent you and your children from seeking appropriate medical attention if you have symptoms or hide your Medicare card.
  • Increase their monitoring and criticism of your parenting, such as blaming you if the children ‘misbehave’ or are upset.
  • Further isolate you or your children in the home by restricting your movements within the house, forcing you or the children into specific spaces in the house, or disabling your mobility devices.
  • Increasingly monitor your personal communication devices such as mobile phone, email, online messaging.
  • Use COVID-19 to excuse, blame or justify their abusive and violent behaviour towards you and the children.
  • An ex-partner may use COVID-19 in their attempt to reconcile or enter/live in your home.
  • An ex-partner may use COVID-19 to threaten you about isolating the children.

Even if you are isolated, try to maintain social connections online or over the phone if it is safe to do so.

It is important that you know you can reach out for support and that our family law solicitors, as well as specialist family violence services, are here to help.

Remember that times of stress and hardship are never an excuse for violence. Everyone deserves to live free from fear and family violence.

How Anderson Family Lawyers Can Help

Even during the current pandemic, Anderson Family Lawyers are open and available for support and advice for anyone experiencing family violence who is worried about how potential self-isolation or quarantine will or is impacting on their safety and wellbeing.

The range of assistance we can offer you include:

  • Free initial consultations for all new callers.
  • Help with Applications for Parenting and Property orders.
  • Help with Urgent Applications for the recovery of children.
  • Help with Applications for Exclusive Occupancy of the family home.
  • Help with Contravention Applications where COVID-19 situation is utilised by one party as an excuse to breach existing parenting or property arrangements and orders.
  • Help with Urgent Spousal Support Applications.

This is not the full list of services we provide, and we will be able to guide you as to what particular legal options are available in your individual situation.

Who Else Can Help

CALL 000 or contact the police – if you are in danger

CALL 1800 015 188 – SAFE STEPS 24/7 family violence response line on – for confidential crisis support, information and accommodation. If it is unsafe to call, email safesteps@safesteps.org.au.

CALL 1800 RESPECT – the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for advice on developing a safety plan or see their website.

CALL 1800 457 870 – MENSLINE – 24/7 professional counselling service assisting with men’s mental health, relationship & divorce, emotional wellbeing, social connection.

CALL 13 11 14 – LIFELINE – providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services

CALL 1800 55 1800 – KIDHELPSLINE – free private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.

Lucy Padula

Lucy is the Principal of anderson Family Lawyers and is an Accredited Family Law Specialist who considers it of utmost importance to assist her clients in resolving family law matters fairly and with integrity.