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Domestic and Family Violence (Vic)

Domestic and family violence is a serious issue in Victoria. Persons experiencing domestic or family violence are likely to also have associated criminal law, family law or civil law issues. This article provides specific information about domestic and family violence in Victoria.

Family Violence Legislation

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 is now the main legislation that governs family violence in Victoria. This Act recognises that family violence is not limited to physical violence but can also include economic, emotional, sexual and psychological abuse.

The three main aims of the Act are as follows:

  • To maximise the safety of persons who have experienced family violence;
  • To prevent and reduce family violence; and
  • To promote the accountability of perpetrators of such violence.

What is family violence?

Section 5 of the Act defines “family violence” as behaviour towards a family member that is physically, sexually, emotionally, economically or psychologically abusive. It includes threatening, coercive, controlling, or dominating behaviour.

The definition also includes exposing a child to any of these behaviours. For example, assaulting a family member in front of a child or having a child clean up after a family member has intentionally damaged the property of another person.

Family violence is defined broadly in Victoria as including intentional damage to property as well as threatening to damage property. It also includes causing the death or injury of an animal, regardless of whether the animal belongs to a family member, where the violence was designed to control, dominate, or coerce a family member.

Who are family members?

The Act provides a list of persons who fall into the definition of a “family member”. A family member means:

  • A spouse or former spouse;
  • A domestic partner or former domestic partner. It is irrelevant whether the partners live in the same home and includes same-sex partners;
  • A person who has or had an intimate personal relationship with the perpetrator;
  • A relative (father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, sibling, or cousin);
  • A child who normally lives or formerly lived with the perpetrator; and
  • A child of someone who has or had an intimate relationship with the perpetrator.

‘Family member’ also means someone regarded as being like family. To determine whether another person can be reasonably be regarded as family, the court will look at various factors. These factors are whether the parties live together, the social and emotional nature of their relationship, and its duration.

For example, a long relationship between a carer and a person with a disability may be considered to be a family-like relationship.

Family violence: What is economic abuse?

Economic abuse is behaviour that shows that a person has tried to unreasonably control another person’s economic or financial autonomy.

For behaviour to be viewed as economic abuse, it must be done without consent.

An example of economic abuse is when a person withholds financial support that is needed to meet the living expenses of another person. Other examples may be where the abuser prevents a person from seeking employment or from accessing property that is jointly held.

What is emotional or psychological abuse?

Emotional or psychological abuse is behaviour that intimidates, torments, harasses or is otherwise offensive to a family member. It includes persistent derogatory insults, threats to disclose personal information (such as the person’s sexual orientation), and preventing them from maintaining connections with friends or other family.

Where can I seek help for family violence?

If you are experiencing domestic or family violence you should seek help immediately from a lawyer or the police. You can apply for an Intervention Order to restrain a person from assaulting you or from having any contact with you.

If such an order is breached, criminal charged may be laid.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal. 

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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