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Family Law

Family Law in Canberra – Domestic violence: fact or fiction?

By April 8, 2015No Comments

It’s an issue that has gained momentum in recent times, thanks partially to the appointment of family violence campaigner Rosie Batty as 2015’s Australian of the Year. And the statistics are frightening: ‘One woman is hospitalised every three hours across the country, as a result of domestic violence…More than 1.6 million Australian women have experienced domestic violence in some form and it’s estimated that less than half of the abuse which occurs in households is ever reported.’ (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2969313/A-woman-forced-sleep-police-station-floor-mother-spent-night-park-bench-children-Australia-s-domestic-violence-shame-revealed-failing-terrified-victims.html)

And yet there are those media commentators, such as Miranda Devine, who claim the figures are misleading and that the “domestic violence bandwagon” is a “feminist campaign that’s more about grabbing power and public funding than it is about saving women from violent men.” Arguing this weekend that domestic violence is less of a scourge on society than child abuse, Devine concludes, “Unlike adult women in abusive ­relationships, the children have no choice”. (Source: http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/mirandadevine/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/the_brutal_truth_about_domestic_violence/) Once again, the victim is blamed for staying in the relationship, rather than the abuser being asked why they don’t stop. Perhaps Devine does not appreciate that family violence includes violence directed at children, as Rosie Batty knows all too well. If Devine genuinely wished to help children in our society, she would do well to support domestic violence campaigns, because too many children are caught up in situations where mothers flee violence and end up homeless, or where children are required to spend time with a violent parent.

In the Daily Mail article, Karen Willis, from Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, is quoted as saying: ‘What should concern all of us is that every single report into homelessness in this country, domestic violence is the number one reason behind it.’   Similarly, the organisation Domestic Violence NSW has highlighted as a major issue the lack of emergency accommodation for those fleeing domestic violence. It is here where funding is so patently needed.

The difficulty often faced by victims of domestic violence is that authorities tell mothers to remove their children from violent situations or risk losing them. But when they do escape, they are propelled through the family courts–where it is regarded as desirable for children to have a meaningful relationship with each parent–and the onus is on the victim to prove significant domestic violence—such proof often expensive and difficult to provide.

To combat the scenario where mothers and children flee an abuser and often become homeless, Domestic Violence NSW is working with police to help victims become part of the “Staying Home Leaving Violence” program, where victims remain in the family home and instead, the abuser is removed. Along with other measures aimed at tackling the shocking rates of family violence in our society, this kind of model seems to have more chance of helping children than ideologically-driven denial of the problem by opinion writers like Devine.

In May, Alliance Family Law is supporting the 2 events at which Rosie Batty is speaking, being the Law Week dinner and the DVCS ball by booking tickets for staff to go and hear from her.

Read more: http://www.dvnsw.org.au/

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