This article explores women’s experiences of leaving abusive relationships and seeks to combat assumptions about the nature of such relationships through in-depth interviews with 12 women who had separated from their male intimate partners (p 5). While separation is broadly recognised as a key time for increased risk of violence towards women and their children (p 1), studies demonstrate that most people believe women are able to leave violent relationships, and do not understand why they might stay (p 2). Such views place the responsibility for ending the violence on women, but in reality, these relationships often include complex circumstances, and the ‘stay/leave binary’ is rarely applicable (p 2). The results indicate that women’s experiences of coercive control significantly affected their decision-making in the context of separation (p 6):
This report analyses the results of the 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey. Key sections in particular that relate to myths and misunderstandings are sections one and three, described below.
Section one: Violence experienced by women and men (from p20)
This section begins with an analysis of the prevalence of violence experienced by women and men (including specific forms of violence) and then proceeds to analyse perpetrator demographics, basic incident characteristics and key post-incident actions and impacts.
Statistical data reveals the higher prevalence of women experiencing violence perpetrated by ‘opposite sex perpetrators’ (pp30-33). For example, since the age of 15, 1.5million women have experienced violence by a cohabiting partner. Since the age of 15, 0.45million men have experienced violence by a cohabiting partner (p31). Almost all women who had experienced violence by a cohabiting partner reported that this violence was perpetrated by a male: 1,470,200 reported violence by a male partner. This is one in six women in Australia (16.8%). Most men who experienced violence were victimised by female partners: 427,900 had experienced violence perpetrated by a female partner. This is one in 20 men in Australia (5.1%)(p31).
Section three: Women’s experiences of partner violence (from p76)
This section provides a detailed examination of the PSS data relating to women’s experiences of partner violence. It presents findings such as:
Pages 105-107 contain flowcharts demonstrating the small numbers of physical and sexual assaults that result in court appearances. Section 4.4 (Psychological impacts, from p116) discusses the levels of fear and anxiety experienced by women following violence perpetrated by a current or former cohabiting partner.Note: this article refers to an old release of the ABS’ Personal Safety Survey, but the analysis remains useful. See Australian Personal Safety Survey (PSS) 2016.
‘The Queensland data discussed in this article demonstrates that the process involved in prosecuting a criminal breach often involves a minimisation of the harm inflicted on women by perpetrators, police and magistrates, a ruthless contest about the facts and numerous court appearances before resolution. Prosecutions of breaches of protection orders often result in no conviction being recorded or in trivialising fines.’
This article reviews the underlying debates relating to the 2005 Victorian offence of ‘defensive homicide’ and the 2010 Queensland defence titled ‘killing for preservation in an abusive domestic relationship’ and examines recent case law to consider the application of these two approaches and their effectiveness in light of what they were designed to achieve.
In two of the cases, the author notes that the female killers were perhaps ‘benchmark’ battered women. Both were smaller than their partners, white, drug-free, monogamous and without a criminal record. They suffered fierce physical abuse over many years, actively protected their children from the abuser and the killing was, apparently, the first time they had physically fought back. Both had attempted to leave the relationship and both had sought assistance from the police in the past. In both cases the abuser had harmed animals and threatened their own children with violence. In comparison, other women’s cases reviewed in this article fell short of the benchmark in some way. One was Indigenous, larger than the deceased; she had drug and alcohol issues, a criminal record and had been in a series of violent relationships; and there was evidence she had fought back before. Another was intimidated and harassed by her abuser but there was limited physical assault in the relationship.While the cases reviewed in this article demonstrate that an individual woman’s experience of abuse is now a significant and relevant consideration at trial and in sentencing, the latter cases show that it remains very difficult for battered women to meet the threshold required to succeed in a claim of self-defence. While not all homicide cases where battered women kill should result in an acquittal on the basis of self-defence it may be that certain stereotypes about battered women continue to inform the choices made by prosecution authorities and juries and sometimes these stereotypes may continue to obscure structural and racial disadvantage (Stubbs and Tolmie, 2008).
This paper outlines common misunderstandings alleged about child protection workers in relation to the dynamics of domestic violence, for example:
This paper identifies judicial knowledge and attitudes about domestic violence in the context of domestic violence protection order and family court proceedings, for example:
Building on findings of the Survey of Recently Separated Parents 2012, the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families, and the 2009 AIFS Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms, this report examines the impacts of changes to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) in the area of family law and has three parts:
the Court Outcomes Project (CO Project) involving:
This paper argues that empirical research does not support the claim that ‘everybody knows the family law system is biased against men’. Although dated, this paper raises three common myths that remain relevant today:
This literature review found that “there is little evidence that alcohol use is a primary cause of violence against women. The paper does, however, identify that there are clear associations, and in some cases, strong correlations between alcohol use and violence against women, including, for instance, in the severity of the violence.” The relationship between alcohol and violence against women manifests in three ways:
Study examines legal support access and experiences by intimate partner violence survivors in rural communities, drawing on 36 in-depth face-to-face interviews. Contains numerous useful excerpts from interviews with rural Australian women experiencing domestic violence, for example:‘When you’re in DV, you don’t have . . . time to get up in the morning and you wouldn’t be allowed to get dressed up. We wouldn’t be allowed to wear makeup and he would be asking where ‘ya going, what ‘ya doing, so it does, it does interfere with your whole life . . . there is a lot of women who work and suffer DV, but there are a lot of us who don’t because we are housebound, where that’s, you know, DV. We’re controlled, and that’s where he can control you. He can’t control us out in the workforce’ (p700).
This research paper examines the need for judicial education in domestic and family violence, based on the overall views of Victorian and Queensland judicial officers surveyed for the study which demonstrated a lack of understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence.
Notes other complexities of domestic violence that are relevant to judicial officers’ responses including:
This paper explores informal community-based work as an additional strategy to tackle domestic violence and discusses a number of common misconceptions:
Analyses attitudes towards domestic violence, in particular that a woman can, if she wants, swiftly and successfully end a violent relationship by simply leaving her abuser (p3198). Although many women are motivated to leave their abusive relationships, a myriad of factors stand in their way, making the decision to return to abusers more likely, such as (pp3196-7):