Family Law expert keen to see light shone on complex system
A QUEENSLAND family law specialist has applauded renewed focus on the difficult process to secure domestic violence protection orders from the courts for victims of such "evil".
Brisbane and Gold Coast family lawyer Jennifer Hetherington said the Queensland Government's domestic violence taskforce, announced on Sunday, would shine a light on the complex system.
She said it could take weeks, or up to three months, to seek a protection order, although police could whisk a victim off to a shelter immediately in emergency cases such as extreme physical violence.
"We need to be doing a lot more to heighten awareness of domestic violence and especially how victims can seek a protection order and regain control of their lives," she said.
"We know domestic violence is increasing and it's too often in the news headlines these days but sadly many victims are afraid to come forward because they don't know how to stop it or are fearful of family and friends knowing of their abuse.
"Their abuser may also have made threats if they report the abuse and they may have a fear of reprisals.
"Domestic violence flourishes when people do not take steps to stop the abusers."
There were 64,246 reported incidents of domestic violence in Queensland last year, up from 57,963 in 2012.
And there were 12,828 breaches of domestic violence orders, up from 10,997 in 2012.
The taskforce's role is to develop recommendations for a comprehensive new family violence strategy by February.
Ms Hetherington, from McKays Solicitors, said domestic violence was an insidious fact in modern society and could range from physical assaults to killing to mental and emotional bullying or financial abuse.
She said it could include controlling behaviour, such as restricting access to money, or unauthorised electronic surveillance of a person's movements.
Monitoring a person's activities - including reading SMS messages or private emails - or using a GPS to track someone's movements also come under the domestic violence definition.
"Having a quick look at your ex's happy snaps on Facebook is not likely to be considered domestic violence but if social media is used in an abusive way, even after separation, it can constitute domestic violence," she said.
Ms Hetherington said family lawyers regularly encountered the tragic consequences of domestic violence in the community and it needed to be brought into sharper public focus.