Domestic violence is by no means a rare or uncommon crime. Family violence results in the deaths of around 100 people every year, with one woman killed almost every week by their partner (The National Coronial Information System, 2018; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018).
The senseless deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children on 19 February 2020 have sparked conversation in the Australian media about domestic violence and how we deal with it.
Despite an existing Domestic Violence Order against him, estranged partner Rowan Baxter was able to douse Hannah and their children, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey in petrol and set their car alight.
Recently, in a jarringly similar situation, a woman in Queensland successfully privately prosecuted her former partner, who pleaded guilty to pouring petrol over her and threatening to burn their house down. Queensland police had dropped related charges against him in 2017 because there was “a low level of public interest.”
The above cases demonstrate a failure by police to take victim safety and trauma seriously, but are representative of a larger issue posed by the culture surrounding domestic violence in Australia.
Community awareness of what domestic violence is and how to respond to it, lack of support and protection for victims, ineffectiveness of current responses and a need for legislative reform of domestic violence laws are all legitimate problems that require solutions.
Some media outlets have questioned why the Australian state and federal governments aren’t doing more to prevent domestic violence, or to more effectively prosecute it. One article draws comparison to law changes introduced in 2014 in response to one-punch attacks.
Despite various recommendations and implementation of policies, such as the NSW Police Force’s Domestic and Family Violence Policy, family violence is still a prevalent issue, and a large proportion of it goes unreported because of the intimate nature of family relationships and fear of the outcome of reporting.
Our principal solicitor, Greg Martin, has previously said:
“Family violence and domestic violence is an epidemic in Australia. In excess of 1.5 million women have experienced family violence, be it physical or sexual, by a partner in their own home. The home and family should be a place that you feel safe, devoid of fear and violence. Domestic violence is an insidious crime.”
We remind you that domestic violence is not only physical – it can also arise through emotional, verbal and financial abuse.
If you have experienced or are experiencing family violence, please find below various numbers for support services:
- 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
- Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
- Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
- Relationships Australia 1300 364 277
If you need legal advice in relation to family law or any other legal matter, please contact Greg Martin or Jacqueline Wainwright on (02) 9687 9322 for a free fifteen minute telephone consultation.