The issue of domestic violence is one that is present in most (if not all) countries in the world. Regardless of which country one lives in, there is an inherent presence of domestic abuse that continues to result in legal battles, injuries, and fatalities. While the most highly-discussed aspect of domestic violence is often the physical damage, there are many forms of domestic violence – including emotional abuse and mental abuse – and each of them are just as important as the others. And while domestic violence occurs against anyone, it seems to be an alarmingly high percentage of victims coming forward who are women. The legal system does not always tilt in favour of the victim, and the unfortunate reality is that there are many victims who are aware of this fact and therefore choose to stay silent. The crisis of domestic violence is global, and each country has its downfalls with the system they abide by.
Unlike standard legal separation cases, ending a relationship fuelled by domestic violence is not as simple as hiring a fantastic divorce lawyer or moving one’s belongings out of the home and simply leaving they key on the kitchen bench. Domestic violence cases are complex, and so the nature of their legal proceedings are often even more time-consuming and intricate than usual. First and foremost, in any legal separation case that involves domestic violence, there will always be questions from one’s lawyers that are difficult to answer. Victims are often asked if they are abused, or have been in the past (not all victims are willing to admit to their abuse immediately, hence the question being difficult for some to answer openly). As the process continues, victims are made to go through a devastating legal battle if they choose to come forward. During this process of the law system, victims are often made to feel ridiculed and judged – something no victim should ever be made to feel.
The law surrounding domestic violence differs in each country. In Australia, the current laws are not doing nearly enough to ward off abusers and protect victims and their loved ones. On average, one woman a week is killed in Australia by her former or current partner. Additionally, violence between intimate partners is a leading contributor to illness, disability, or even premature death in Australian woman between the ages of eighteen and forty-four years old. There is currently an act that is making its way through Queensland’s (a state in Australia) legal system that would solidify twenty-three human rights, replacing the state’s Anti-Discrimination Commission with a Human Rights Commission. This does not seem like a problem at first, but when you learn that those twenty-three human rights cater entirely to the perpetrators and not at all to the victims, it becomes more than an issue. It becomes a crisis.
This act is currently just a draft, but if it makes its way successfully through the Queensland legal system, then it places direct risk on victims while pivoting the rights of proven criminals above those of the victims of their crimes. This is a crisis for obvious reasons, but more than anything it is a terrifying example of criminal injustice against victims – and at the hands of the court system designed to ensure the law is carried out correctly, no less. One result of this act being passed (should it be) is that victims will be less confident and inclined to come forward about their abuse, which could ultimately lead to more deaths and complications for the legal system as well as victims and their loved ones.
The nature of domestic violence is complicated and pervasive, and so are the subsequent legal cases that are the result of victims of domestic violence coming forward. For victims of domestic violence, there are sometimes children who are also involved. When the violence is happening within a family unit, it is even more difficult to disentangle oneself from the violence as a victim – if that is even possible. Divorce is not always an easy choice, particularly for those who are so far deep into their lives of abuse that they feel there is no way out. Often what occurs is a vicious cycle of victims wanting to go to the law, being bullied and abused into stepping back from the idea, and then wanting to step up again. This cycle continues until severe injury and even fatality occur, and the law then steps in just before or after the abuse spirals into a fatal result.
Domestic violence is an issue that, historically, has always been more than present. Unfortunately, there is more than enough evidence, studies, and research to highlight the ongoing crisis in harrowing detail. It seems that every time the news comes on or a new story is released online, that domestic violence finds its way into headlines, as yet another victim’s story is added to the public tally. As one of the latest movements in the domestic violence legal battle that is raging around the world, Queensland – an Australian state – has made actions towards a Human Rights Act that would legally instil more rights for perpetrators and practically none for victims. This is a worrying time in the history of domestic violence, and only the law can help any of us.