Family Violence

Violence in families is a significant problem confronting communities in Australasia and internationally. It can have a long-lasting impact upon the physical and psychological health and behaviour of victims, children of the parties and perpetrators and their quality of life. There are multiple dimensions of the problem such as the safety of the victim and children involved, providing appropriate support to address the trauma and any social dislocation arising as a result of the violence, the resolution of any outstanding issues concerning child and financial issues and the relationship and promoting the rehabilitation of the perpetrator.

The Australian justice system deals with differing aspects of the problem in various jurisdictions: criminal to hear and determine any charges arising out of the violence, specialist family violence courts to protect victims and promote rehabilitation of perpetrators, restraining order or apprehended violence order applications in magistrates courts to protect victims and family courts to address issues to do with the welfare of children and other relationship-related issues.

Therapeutic jurisprudence in this context examines the impact of court processes upon victims, perpetrators and any children involved. It looks to see whether victims and perpetrators are given voice, validation and respect. It examines court and other legal processes in each jurisdiction relating to family violence in the light of findings from research in the area, to see whether they promote or interfere with victim wellbeing and whether they promote offender rehabilitation and to make suggestions as to reform.

Since the mid 1990s, Australasian jurisdictions have introduced reforms to make the process of applying for a restraining order/AVO less intimidating for victims. There are more specialist family violence services available to support victims. In addition, family violence courts have been introduced to promote victim safety and perpetrator compliance with family violence perpetrators programs. The Geraldton Alternative Sentencing Regime has included perpetrators of family violence in its problem-solving, drug court-style program. The page on problem-solving courts discusses family violence courts further.