Time to get tough on fam­ily vi­o­lence

Sunday Mail - - OPINION -

IMAG­INE you go to court and the judge gives you a piece of pa­per which or­ders the ex-part­ner who has vi­o­lently at­tacked or emo­tion­ally con­trolled you to stop – and stay away.

Then imag­ine that, de­spite this of­fi­cial piece of pa­per, they con­tinue to ha­rass or hurt you, with no care for the con­se­quences.

This is the re­al­ity fac­ing thou­sands of fam­ily vi­o­lence vic­tims who con­tinue to re­ceive threat­en­ing text mes­sages, un­wanted vis­its or worse every day.

The State Govern­ment tough­ened the law in 2011 to make it eas­ier for vic­tims to seek the pro­tec­tion of an in­ter­ven­tion or­der and, since then, or­ders – and breaches – have been ris­ing.

Many ar­gue this is a sign of in­creased aware­ness, and to some ex­tent it is.

But it is un­ac­cept­able that abu­sive per­pe­tra­tors are al­lowed to con­tinue to thumb their noses at the law so fre­quently.

The lat­est fig­ures, show­ing some abusers breach­ing or­ders up to 20 times, have prompted calls to fast-track changes promised by our Govern­ment to pre­vent fam­ily vi­o­lence.

Ini­tia­tives un­der con­sid­er­a­tion in­clude a dis­clo­sure scheme al­low­ing peo­ple with con­cerns about a part­ner’s be­hav­iour to seek de­tails about their crim­i­nal his­tory, and let­ting po­lice use video ev­i­dence of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims in court.

The Govern­ment had been con­sid­er­ing im­pos­ing a time limit on in­ter­ven­tion or­ders – as is the case in­ter­state – but con­firmed in to­day’s Sun­day Mail that it has aban­doned the idea at the urg­ing of vic­tims.

Many of the other ideas pro­posed in a blue­print re­leased by au­thor­i­ties more than a year ago are em­i­nently sen­si­ble, could be eas­ily en­acted through a change of law or fund­ing and al­ready have the sup­port of lead­ers such as the Po­lice Com­mis­sioner and Chief Mag­is­trate.

Deputy Premier John Rau says the Govern­ment’s fi­nal pol­icy po­si­tion will be out­lined “soon” – but he had orig­i­nally told the Sun­day Mail he ex­pected to en­act changes by early this year. Vic­tims are sick of wait­ing.

And while we wait, this so­cial scourge costs our com­mu­nity too much – in time, money and pain.

As Cen­tacare’s Dale West puts it, ev­ery­one is drawn into do­mes­tic vi­o­lence: “The per­son on the re­ceiv­ing end of the punch and emo­tional abuse, their chil­dren, the peo­ple in­ad­ver­tently caught in the mid­dle, the doc­tors, nurses and ev­ery­one else around the vic­tim”.

We’ve be­come much bet­ter at talk­ing about this problem, which was kept be­hind closed doors for too long. But now we know what we’re deal­ing with and it’s time for ac­tion.

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