Family Violence – by Sue Fridey
Family violence continues to cause distress, harm and concern to the victims, families and the community. Family violence comprises not only acts of physical harm but also verbal abuse, intimidation, denigration, controlling behaviour and sexual abuse. It also includes financial or economic abuse where one party seeks to control another through withholding or a threat to withhold necessary financial support. Protection is provided to the victims through the Family Violence Protection Act 2008.
Family violence is not limited to family members. A person, who is subjected to stalking or harassing behaviour or receives threats or sustains property damage, may be able to seek an Intervention Order through Personal Safety Intervention Orders 2008 legislation. Any person in fear for their wellbeing should seek assistance from the police or attend at the Magistrates’ Court and make an application for an Order.
An Intervention Order is an order generally made by the Magistrates’ Court. The Magistrate must be satisfied that an act constituting family violence has occurred and that it is likely to occur again. If an Order is made, there is no “criminal” record as the proceedings are essentially civil in nature. However if there is subsequent conduct which breaches the Court Order, this conduct may constitutes a criminal offence and could result in the perpetrator receiving a police record (including a conviction or non-conviction). The penalties for breach of an Intervention Order can be significant including a term of imprisonment.
Many people are concerned that the existence of an Intervention Order may prevent them from seeing their children. The Court is aware of the importance of supporting a child’s relationship with his or her parent but this must occur in a manner which ensures the child’s safety and promotes their best interests. It is not unusual for an Intervention Order to allow a person to still spend time with their child in accordance with any Family Law Order, Child Protection Order or written agreement but only if they do not commit any act of family violence during that time.
Victims of family violence should seek the support of Victoria Police or one of the several support agencies in the Geelong region. Assistance is available to the perpetrator of family violence to address their behaviour, identify the impact on their family members and learn the necessary skills to avoid future behaviour which causes family violence.
If required, victims of family violence can access urgent crisis accommodation and may be eligible for assistance through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. Enquiries can be made through Victoria Police initially.
Should you or a family member seek further advice, please contact one of our family law team members for assistance.