Incidence of domestic violence rising28-November-2015 Family Law By Evatt Styles
With more than one woman dying every week in Australia this year as a result of domestic violence, the Federal Government recently pledged more than $100 million to create awareness, educate support staff and even provide for “duty solicitors” at selected hospitals to provide legal advice to female victims of domestic violence.
Mr Evatt Styles, a Senior Solicitor at Streeterlaw, reports on the emerging trends in Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) and shares some important survival tips for victims of emotional and/or physical abuse.
What is an ADVO?
An ADVO is a civil order from the Local Court that details conditions upon which contact can occur between people involved in a domestic relationship, where one party claims a violent threat exists and they need to restrict contact with the other party.
The victim is often referred to as the Person in Need of Protection (PINOP) and the Accused is known as the defendant. The PINOP can also include a partner in a relationship with the victim or even children, depending on the grounds of the application.
An ADVO is a civil matter, but a breach of an ADVO is a criminal matter. Sometimes, ADVOs will also involve another charge, such as common assault or assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.
There has been a disturbing increase in the number of ADVOs granted to females in 2015 and a spike in ADVO litigation in the Local Court of NSW. Statistics indicate that females are protected by ADVOs at twice the rate of males (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). In the large majority of cases, women are the victims and the men are the defendants.
Sadly, the number of ADVO applications brought by NSW Police that involve children as PINOPs with simultaneous and contentious Family Law child custody proceedings has spiked considerably in the past eight months.
The recent increase in domestic violence funding by the Federal Government is expected to result in a surge of ADVO litigation.
Violence is deplorable, particularly when it occurs within the family home. Unfortunately, the evidence for abuse can sometimes be murky, with reported incidents often described as “he said/ she said” in nature.
Evidence aside, violence within the home is destructive and toxic for children who are often involved directly or indirectly. The dreadful fact is victims often fail to take action. Victims of abuse should heed the following general tips:
- Make it clear that you do not want the offender to contact you or to approach you. Send a text with a clear and unequivocal message. Do not send mixed messages as it is only likely to exacerbate the situation.
- Avoid being with the abusive person alone, particularly if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol; a calming yet independent support person will likely diffuse any situation.
We wish to equip our clients with the necessary tools to protect themselves, their loved ones and to obtain legitimate and necessary ADVOs when appropriate. Victims of abuse should take the following steps:
- Call 000 Immediately if you fear for your safety and particularly if alcohol or substance abuse is involved. Speak clearly and take down notes of who you speak to on the phone, what happened and obtain your police event number from the attending police officer. You can also bring private applications for ADVOs.
- Contact a support person to be with you; do not attempt to confront the perpetrator
- Move to a safe location with any other people who are at risk of danger.
- If you need urgent protection, consider an Urgent Interim/Provisional Order ADVO. This will protect you before the matter is brought before the Court (usually taking several weeks).
- Reflecting on your relationship, take time to note down and print out (in chronological order) anything that could be considered as evidence against the perpetrator, including emails, logs, diary entries and even text messages. This reflection may help you decide how you can best take control of your life.
ADVO hearings are not conducted like a hearing in an episode of NCIS, the balance of proof is similar to a civil matter (on the balance of probabilities).
Heed the advice of past victims
Mr Styles said it’s important the victim does not, under any circumstances, contact the offender after an ADVO has been approved.
“If an ADVO order has been made, regardless of whether the orders are Interim or Provisional, avoid contacting the other party, even if you think that such contact may be harmless or may even help the situation,” he said. “Nine out of 10 times it will not be helpful to your situation. As a PINOP, you are risking further harm or undermining the ADVO, particularly if it is yet to be heard at a defended hearing.”
The major concern facing a defendant is an allegation of a breach of the terms of the ADVO, which can result in criminal charges and conviction.