What is domestic and family violence?

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Complexities and legal nuances of domestic and family violence to help understand rights and protections available.
Australia Family and Matrimonial
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Key Takeaways:

  • Domestic and family violence includes physical, emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse by a partner or family member.
  • Awareness of the signs of domestic violence, such as physical injuries, behavioural changes, and psychological abuse, is crucial to ensure you can support an affected person.
  • If you are experiencing such issues, reaching out to a domestic violence lawyer can offer both protection and peace of mind.

If you are in immediate danger, please call emergency services on 000.

Domestic and family violence involves behaviours by a partner or family member aimed at controlling or dominating another through fear.

These behaviours can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial, and/or sexual in nature.

In Australia, this issue is recognised legally under various acts like the Family Law Act 1975 and the Family Violence Protection Act, reflecting its seriousness.

In this article, our experienced divorce lawyers Sydney will discuss the complexities and legal nuances of domestic and family violence to help those affected understand their rights and the protections available to them.

How common is domestic violence in Australia?

In Australia, domestic and family violence is alarmingly prevalent.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), one in six women and one in sixteen men have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15.

This issue transcends socioeconomic, geographic, and demographic boundaries, impacting individuals Australia-wide, from urban areas to rural regions across the country.

The severity and frequency of incidents, as documented by various studies, indicate a deep-rooted societal problem that demands comprehensive legal and social interventions.

Risk factors of domestic violence

Domestic violence is a multifaceted issue influenced by various factors that intersect at personal, relational, and societal levels.

Understanding these risk factors is essential for prevention and intervention strategies.

While no single factor can predict domestic violence, the presence of certain conditions can increase the likelihood of its occurrence. Here are some key factors that could indicate the likelihood or presence of domestic and family violence issues:

  • Personal history of experiencing family violence: Individuals who have experienced violence in their past, either as a victim or witness, are more likely to be involved in domestic violence situations.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol and drug abuse can exacerbate tendencies towards violence and reduce self-control, making domestic incidents more likely.
  • Economic factors: Financial stress and dependency can create power imbalances in relationships, which may manifest as domestic violence.
  • Mental health: Issues such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders can contribute to the dynamics that lead to domestic violence.
  • Cultural and societal norms: Environments that uphold rigid gender roles or stigmatise divorce can contribute to a tolerance of domestic violence.

Relationship dynamics: High levels of conflict, jealousy, and power imbalances in a relationship are significant relational risk factors.

Know the signs of domestic violence

Recognising the signs of domestic violence is crucial in providing timely support and intervention to an affected family member or friend. Some signs include:

  • Physical signs such as unexplained bruises, broken bones, or marks that suggest physical assault.
  • Behavioural indicators, such as sudden changes in behaviour, like increased anxiety, depression, or withdrawal from usual activities and social circles.
  • Financial signs include situations where one partner excessively controls finances, restricting the other's access to money or financial decision-making.
  • Threatening and coercive behaviours, like threats of harm to adults, children, pets, or other family members, as well as threats of suicide or self-harm to coerce behaviour.
  • Efforts to isolate a partner from friends, family, and support networks, which can also include monitoring or restricting communication with others.
  • Psychological abuse includes behaviours that undermine an individual's sense of self-worth, such as persistent insults, belittling, intimidation, and threats.
  • Verbal and emotional signs of abuse, like frequent criticism, belittling, or overt verbal attacks that are intended to demean or control.

Recognising these signs can be the first step toward helping someone in a potentially dangerous situation.

How to respond?

Responding effectively to signs of domestic violence can save lives and provide crucial support. Here's how individuals and communities can act:

Listen and believe

Offer a non-judgmental ear and believe the person sharing their experiences. Affirming their feelings and experiences is an important first step.

Provide information

Share information about local support services, legal advice, and emergency contacts. Knowledge is power when it comes to navigating next steps.

Encourage professional help

Recommend seeking advice from domestic and family violence lawyers or support organisations that specialise in family violence. Lawyers specialised in family violence matters can guide safety planning and legal protections such as helping to obtain a family violence intervention order, family court proceedings, and understanding the implications of the Family Violence Protection Act.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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