What is family violence?
The Family Law Act 1975 (Section 4AB) defines the meaning of family violence as:
violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful.
A child is exposed to family violence if the child sees or hears family violence or otherwise experiences the effects of family violence; and
Section 4(1) defines Abuse, in relation to a child as:
(a) an assault, including a sexual assault, of the child; or
(b) a person (the first person) involving the child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by the first person or the other person, and where there is an unequal power in the relationship between the child and the first person; or
(c) causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm, including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence; or
(d) serious neglect of the child.
The Courts (through the Family Court’s Family Violence Strategy) have adopted this description of the elements of violence:
Examples of behaviour that may constitute family violence include (but are not limited to):
- an assault; or
- a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour; or
- stalking; or
- repeated derogatory taunts; or
- intentionally damaging or destroying property; or
- intentionally causing death or injury to an animal; or
- unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had; or
- unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support; or
- preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; or
- unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member’s family, or his or her liberty.
Examples of situations that may constitute a child being exposed to family violence include (but are not limited to) the child:
- overhearing threats of death or personal injury by a member of the child’s family towards another member of the child’s family; or
- seeing or hearing an assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s family; or
- comforting or providing assistance to a member of the child’s family who has been assaulted by another member of the child’s family; or
- cleaning up a site after a member of the child’s family has intentionally damaged property of another member of the child’s family; or
- being present when police or ambulance officers attend an incident involving the assault of a member of the child’s family by another member of the child’s family.
Common forms of violence in families include:
- spouse/partner abuse (violence among adult partners and ex-partners)
- child abuse/neglect (abuse/neglect of children by an adult)
- parental abuse (violence perpetrated by a child against their parent), and
- sibling abuse (violence between siblings).
Family violence can affect not only a person’s safety, but also:
- their readiness to take action in a family law matter
- their willingness to come to the Courts
- their ability to participate in court events, and/or
- their ability to achieve settlement of their dispute through negotiation.