What constitutes domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a crime under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012. Penalties may include large fines and substantial terms of imprisonment. If you are arrested on a domestic violence charge, it is important to instruct a domestic violence lawyer in Brisbane to help you. But what behaviours count as domestic violence?

A commonly held view is that domestic violence occurs when one partner in a relationship physically assaults the other one. However, the law defines domestic violence as including a far broader range of behaviours, including many that are not physical.

How is domestic violence defined?

Domestic violence comprises:

  • Behaviours that control or dominate another person; or
  • Cause them to fear for their safety or well being; and
  • Which occurs between domestic partners.

Behaviours include:

  • Physical or sexual abuse. This may include punching, hitting, choking or forcing sexual acts, but also includes property damage, hurting or threatening to hurt pets, and other threats of physical abuse or property damage.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse. This ranges from stalking and harassment to isolating someone, insulting or verbally degrading them, controlling their movements or their appearance or blackmailing them.
  • Economic abuse. This occurs where one person withholds or denies access to money, controls how money is spent or misuses money (including deliberately running up debts, not paying bills or otherwise wasting money to destroy the financial solvency of a partner)
  • Threatening behaviour. This may including threatening acts of harm against a person, their loved ones or pets, and also includes threats of self-harm or suicide made in order to control or frighten someone.
  • Coercive behaviour. This may include forcing, intimidating or manipulating a person into doing something they don’t want to. Coercing someone into sexual acts falls under sexual abuse, but coercion also extends to intimidating someone into lending money, signing a contract or agreeing to a power of attorney.

What are domestic partners?

Domestic partners, for the purposes of defining domestic violence, are:

People in intimate personal relationships;

Relatives; or

People engaged in an informal care relationship

Intimate personal relationships are defined in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 as married or de facto couples, including individuals who are engaged to be married. It also includes former partners.

Relatives are people who are, or have been, connected to a person by blood or marriage. This includes blood relatives and step-parents, grandparents/grandchildren, uncles/aunts and nieces/nephews. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and certain other cultural or religious groups, a wider concept of relative may also apply.

An informal care relationship exists where one person is dependent on another for assistance in daily living tasks. It does not extend to commercial care relationships, where one person is a nurse or professional paid caregiver.

What do I do if I am accused of domestic violence?

If someone believes that they are experiencing domestic or family violence, they may apply for a Domestic Violence Order (DVO). You will be given a copy of the application by a police officer, which will contain a date and time that you will need to go to court.

It is important to consult with an experienced domestic violence lawyer in Brisbane to understand what your next steps should be. You can appear in court by yourself, or choose to have a domestic violence lawyer appear with you.

During the hearing, you may choose to:

  • Agree with the making of the DVO. This does not require you to admit to committing domestic violence.
  • Ask for an adjournment so that you can seek legal advice from a domestic violence lawyer in Brisbane.
  • Disagree with the making of the DVO. You will be given another hearing date and dates that you are required to file an affidavit which will constitute your evidence at the trial.

If you do not go to court, you may have a final protection order made against you. The magistrate may also issue a warrant for you to be taken into custody and appear in court at a later date.

For further advice on whether to defend a domestic violence charge, or support if an application for a domestic violence order is made against you, get in touch with our domestic violence lawyers in Brisbane.