One every two minutes…
264,000 counts of domestic violence matters are dealt with by police on average each year. However, these numbers only reflect the cases that have been reported. It is commonly accepted that domestic violence is seen as an act where someone, who has a personal relationship with another, makes that person feel afraid, powerless or unsafe. Generally accepted as a physical or verbal act, it can also include emotional and psychological abuse. Domestic violence is now recognised to be a serious and widespread problem in Australia, with enormous individual and social costs. It has become entrenched in the public arena, with regular accounts of cases of notoriety making the headlines of media outlets and social platforms. This is well illustrated with the recent murder of Hannah Clarke and her three young children by her estranged husband. While these acts can be horrendous, offenders often receive little to no consequence for their actions. When I was a toddler and I did something wrong, my mum would give me a slap on the wrist, nothing too hard, just a gentle slap and that was probably all I need to know what was right or wrong. A slap could be seen as violence in the eyes of some people, but my parents always made it clear that violence was not okay and ensured that I grew up in a safe environment. The general public is becoming more aware of domestic violence within the Australian society, yet the judicial system is too kind towards the perpetrators of such inhumane crimes. Australia needs to review the laws so that they reflect the severity of the criminal offence domestic violence is. (domestic violence warrants) Nonetheless, is a slap on the wrist appropriate for assaulting a loved one?
Fifty per cent of domestic homicides occur within three months of separation between partners and the time of greatest risk is when a partner is attempting to leave their relationship. This is a very volatile time for people involved in domestic violence and more immediate action needs to be taken. Statistics collected between 2014 and 2016 state that one woman was killed every nine days and one man every 29 days as a consequence of domestic violence. Why has there been minimal response from the judicial system that reflects the appropriateness of this offence? Professor Heather Douglas, an Australian Research Council Fellow based at the TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland, has reported that victims often ask; “Why? If he punched his mate at the pub he would have been charged with assault and there would have been a much more serious penalty, in my case all the police do is get me a protection order, and even then that takes ages to serve and they are not very helpful.” When called to the scene of a domestic violence incident the Australian police often look for a swift and easy response to the situation, and in most cases this simple answer is a protection order. However, a protection or intervention order is a civil matter, but isn’t domestic violence a criminal matter? The legal authorities need to realise that a protection order can easily be breached and will not always stop a perpetrator from committing a crime.
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Recent media headlines continue to describe and focus on how Hannah’s husband had missed his family and had promised not to do “anything stupid,” instead of focussing on the absolute cruelty of Hannah and her children’s murder. Society is no better than the media, people are suggesting that the responsibility of Hannah’s death was purely her own. One comment on social media read, “…take note ladies…you’ll burn for taking a man’s children away from him lol.” Is this the behaviour, by both Hannah’s estranged husband and society acceptable? This goes to prove that we believe that domestic violence is not a crime and isn’t as severe as it truly is. (Refer to article from email) Even in court, society is effectively hamstringing victims. Domestic violence is largely associated with the separation of family, yet victims have reported to have been advised by their lawyers not to discuss that abuse at all in court. (Refer to fact that they have to personally face them in court) We are telling victims, who are most at-risk and are trying to leave their relationship because of abuse, that they are ‘not allowed’ to raise the issue of domestic violence. If no one can speak up for what is happening, how can we prevent it from happening repeatedly? Does society accept these truths? For domestic violence offenders to get the punishment it needs, we need to stop treating domestic violence by turning a blind eye. (Need to stop turning a blind eye towards/when it comes to domestic violence)
(Ultimately sentencing people to their own deaths from domestic violence, whether it’s by the hands of their partner or their own escape)
Deterrence-based punishments is the theory that the threats of punishment or experiencing the punishment will reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Whether it’s prison itself or longer sentences, these recommended consequences stem from the notion that would-be offenders will be turned away from committing a crime. While contemporary research over several decades on the effects of deterrence-based reprimands, including mandatory sentencing, suggests that these deterrents fail to reduce crime. Case in point has been the introduction of unlawful striking causing death in Queensland, which has seen a spike in that particular crime. Opponents to deterrent-based punishments for domestic-related violence would cite these examples as a major aspect in their arguments. What they fail to disclose is that the majority of these studies have a selected focus on petty and juvenile crime. There’s no substantial evidence to suggest that this would not be the case for reducing domestic violence.
Australia has seen the introduction of an extensive variety of initiatives, implemented by both state and federal government agencies, along with several private companies and charities, to address and prevent domestic violence. To date, there is a significant lack of evidence to show that these strategies have worked. Campaigns have been driven for the past decade with substantial investments of time and money, yet vulnerable people are still facing deadly threats in their homes. Why hasn’t the government responded with a more efficient and effective strategy in response to domestic violence? Section 181 (5) Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) states that “the term of imprisonment that may be imposed on a summary conviction of an indictable offence is 3 years imprisonment.” Even when found guilty, the average length of incarceration for the most serious kinds of assault is 370 days. And only 1.5% of these perpetrators will complete the full sentence in custody. Until we start acting and changing the laws regarding domestic violence, these horrific crimes will continue to occur.