Family violence is unfortunately more prevalent than many realise and impacts many Australian families and children. During 2013/2014, police responded to 65,000 family violence incidents in the state of Victoria alone.
A number of recent tragic incidences of family violence have led to increased media reporting and political attention about family violence and family violence intervention orders. But what is family violence and what can you do if this affects you and/or your family?
What is family violence?
The law takes family violence seriously and your local police must respond to all reports of family violence, which can include behaviours such as:
- physical abuse eg hitting or pushing a person around;
- sexual abuse eg forcing a person to have sex;
- emotional or psychological abuse, eg controlling what a person wears, who a person can see and when, or calling
- them names; and
- financial abuse eg controlling a person’s money.
It also includes any behaviour that makes a family member fear for the safety of their property, another person or an animal.
If a child hears, sees or is around family violence in any way, this is also considered to be family violence. This includes where a child helps a family member who has been abused, sees damaged property in the family home or is at a family violence incident when the police arrive.
What is a family violence intervention order?
A family violence intervention order is used to protect a person from a family member who is using family violence. Intervention orders include a range of conditions intended to stop someone from using violence against a family member. If a person breaks the conditions of an intervention order, they can be charged with a criminal offence.
Family violence intervention orders usually prohibit or restrict the following:
- behaving offensively;
- approaching (or going near) a protected person;
- attending at premises where a protected person lives, works or frequents;
- being at a particular location;
- following the protected person;
- contacting or communicating with the protected person;
- damaging property owned by the protected person;
- arranging for another person to do what the respondent is not allowed to do as stated in the order.
An intervention order may also require a person to participate in prescribed counselling.
Where a family violence intervention order is issued, a written explanation of the order has to be given to the affected family member and the person against whom it is issued (called the respondent) which specifies:
- the purpose, terms and effect of the intervention order
- the consequences and penalties that apply if the respondent does not obey or comply with the intervention order
- how the intervention order may be varied, extended or revoked (cancelled)
- relevant family violence services offering legal, emotional or practical support available.
The Court can either allocate the period that a family violence intervention order will last, or it can make an intervention order that will remain in force indefinitely.
Obtaining a family violence intervention order
A person can make an application for a family violence intervention order at any Magistrates’ Court of Victoria or Local Court in New South Wales. Similar procedures operate in each State and Territory of Australia.
Alternatively, where the police attend an incident of family violence and believe a family violence intervention order is required to protect an affected family member, they will often make the application on behalf of that person.