Bombarded by texts from violent partner
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workers say it is only the tip of the iceberg because it does not include cases which are dismissed by authorities, withdrawn or never reach the point of charges being laid.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