Bom­barded by texts from vi­o­lent part­ner

Sunday Mail - - NEWS -

VI­O­LENT abusers are re­peat­edly breach­ing court or­ders meant to pro­tect their vic­tims – up to 20 times in some cases – prompt­ing calls to fast track changes to pre­vent do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The State Govern­ment re­leased an eight-point ac­tion plan more than a year ago but is yet to en­act any of the poli­cies. How­ever, the Sun­day Mail can re­veal it has aban­doned one pro­posal which would have put a time limit on the pro­tec­tion of­fered by courtim­posed or­ders, fol­low­ing urg­ing from vic­tims.

South Aus­tralia is one of few ju­ris­dic­tions where such or­ders re­main in place in­def­i­nitely. In­ter­state, they can ex­pire in as lit­tle as 12 months, re­quir­ing vic­tims to go through a trau­matic re-ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Fig­ures ob­tained by the Sun­day Mail show there were more than 3100 breaches of pro­tec­tion or­ders re­ported in South Aus­tralia last fi­nan­cial year - which could in­clude ha­rass­ing or stalk­ing a vic­tim in per­son or via text mes­sages, dam­ag­ing their prop­erty or go­ing to their home or work­place. More than 1400 peo­ple com­mit­ted at least one breach, 425 peo­ple were re­peat of­fend­ers and four did so be­tween 11 and 20 times. The trend has risen over the past three years, but front­line work­ers say it is only the tip of the ice­berg be­cause it does not in­clude cases which are dis­missed by au­thor­i­ties, with­drawn or never reach the point of charges be­ing laid.

Many vic­tims also do not bother to make a re­port be­cause they do not be­lieve au­thor­i­ties will act.

Cen­tacare Catholic Fam­ily Ser­vices di­rec­tor Dale West CASSIE* has been sep­a­rated from her abu­sive part­ner for years but still re­ceives an “al­most con­stant” stream of texts filled with crit­i­cism, ha­rass­ment and per­sonal at­tacks.

The mother of three, who is also a lawyer, is meant to be pro­tected by an in­ter­ven­tion or­der which pre­vents her ex­part­ner from con­tact­ing her un­less it is about the wel­fare of their chil­dren.

She says there have been at least 16 se­ri­ous breaches of that or­der, in­clud­ing mes­sages con­tain­ing veiled threats, but po­lice have not moved to pros­e­cute her abuser.

“The po­lice will only pros­e­cute with the most ex­treme breaches – you’ve got to be ba­si­cally dead,” Cassie told the “But every said pro­tec­tion or­ders were “cru­cial, but the im­ple­men­ta­tion is still a problem”.

“It is im­por­tant women’s ex­pe­ri­ences of vi­o­lence are not min­imised and that they are sup­ported to re­port a breach,” he said. Women’s Safety Ser­vices time you get a mes­sage from him it brings back the whole 20 years of abuse and es­pe­cially the as­sault. It’s like wa­ter tor­ture. There is still so much that’s go­ing un­re­ported. For all of (anti-vi­o­lence cam­paigner) Rosie Batty’s good work, not enough has changed.”

The max­i­mum penalty for breach­ing an or­der is two years in jail but Cassie said she was “yet to see any­one who’s re­ceived that”.

While she urged a stronger re­sponse, Cassie wel­comed the de­ci­sion by Govern­ment not to im­pose a time limit on their pro­tec­tion.

“I just thank God that they last for life, oth­er­wise I’d be con­stantly in fear,” she said. SA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Maria Ha­gias said do­mes­tic vi­o­lence was “about power and con­trol within re­la­tion­ships” and of­fend­ers of­ten “at­tempt to re­gain power and con­trol of vic­tims through breach­ing the or­ders”. A breach could range from tex­ting or call­ing a pro­tected per­son or show­ing up at a child’s school, to break­ing down a front door or stran­gling an ex-part­ner. The max­i­mum penalty is two years’ jail.

Other op­tions in­clude fines or sus­pended sen­tences.

Op­po­si­tion Deputy Leader Vickie Chap­man said dis­re­spect drove of­fend­ers to re­peat­edly breach or­ders and there should be tougher en­force­ment.

“You won­der whether they’re worth the pa­per they’re writ­ten on,” she said.

Mr Rau said “any breach of an in­ter­ven­tion or­der is a crime” but ar­gued that ris­ing num­bers could “re­flect the grow­ing com­mu­nity aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and an in­creas­ing num­ber of vic­tims com­ing for­ward”.

He said the Govern­ment would re­lease its fi­nal do­mes­tic vi­o­lence blue­print “soon”. PAGE 74: ED­I­TO­RIAL

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