Family Violence Family Violence

Family violence (domestic violence)

Family violence and abuse are unfortunately a part of some relationships. When the relationship ends, or appears to be ending the violence may intensify. You do not need to live with violence, if you or your children are enduring abuse or family violence seek help from the police or your lawyer.

Family violence is harmful behaviour that is used to control, threaten, force or dominate a family member through fear. It includes:

  • physical abuse, such as hitting or pushing a person around,
  • sexual abuse, such as forcing a person to have sex,
  • emotional or psychological abuse, such as controlling who a person can see and when, or calling them names or
  • financial abuse, such as controlling a person’s money.

Family violence is also behavior that makes a family member fear for the safety of such things as:

  • their property,
  • another person or
  • an animal.

If a child hears, sees or is around family violence in any way, they are also covered by the law. This includes if a child:

  • helps a family member who has been abused,
  • sees damaged property in the family home or
  • is at a family violence incident when the police arrive.

Under family violence law, family members are:

  • people who share an intimate personal relationship,
  • parents and children, including children of an intimate partner,
  • relatives by birth, marriage or adoption or
  • people you treat like a family member – for example, a carer, guardian or person who is related to you within the family structure of your culture.

The law also protects a person from anyone who was a family member in the past.

State laws make provision for your personal safety, and can protect you from family violence or spousal abuse. If, for any reason, you fear for your own safety or the safety of your children, the lawyers at Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists Melbourne can help you to find protection from family violence. We can advise on the forms of Apprehended Violence Orders available and help you obtain an order appropriate to your circumstances and adequate for your protection. We can also advise on the effect of an AVO on post separation parenting.

If you are facing unwarranted accusations of family violence or abuse we can advise you on your options and assist you in defending the allegations.

Mathews Family Law is a leading family law firm in Melbourne. Please contact us on 1300 635 529 to speak with our family and divorce lawyers  today. You can also send through your enquiry online now and we will contact you shortly.

Family Violence Family Violence

What if my spouse is violent?


Hi. I’m Vanessa Mathews from Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists and I want to discuss family or domestic violence with you today.

If you’re in a violent or abusive situation within your home, please spend a few minutes listening to this video to learn more about your rights and what you can do and remember that you’re not alone. There are many agencies that provide services to families suffering from family violence. See our website at under the tab “violence” to find out which agencies can help you.

The first thing you need to know is what exactly is family violence. According to the law, family violence or abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and even financial.

Restraining law protects spouses, children, relatives, and even other individuals living in the house where there is family violence.

What can you do about violence? Australia has something called an AVO. Sometimes this is also called an intervention order, a protection order, or an apprehended violence order. The aim is to protect those in danger or to prevent the violent or abusive person from continuing their abuse.

You need to go to the courts to apply for an AVO and the court will have to consider all of the circumstances but the court’s main concern is the well-being and safety of the person being hurt or abused.

Another important question is who is covered by this order or who is the family member? Because in order to get an AVO you have to show that there is a relationship. There are 5 types of relationships covered by the law. One is people who share an intimate relationship, like a marriage, or a de facto couple, essentially a spouse or partner. The second is parents and children, so if there is abuse by a parent or child, the other can request an AVO. The third group is other relatives and this includes people related by birth, or adoption, or marriage. The fourth group is people who are like family members, such as guardians or caregivers. The fifth group is people who used to be family members, for example, an ex-spouse.

When you go to get an AVO, you’ll fill out an application either at the magistrates court if you’re over 18 or at the children’s court if you’re 14 to 18 years old or if you’re an adult applying for an order for a child. The application asks a lot of questions about the sides. The person asking for the order is called the protected person and the person who the order is against is called the respondent.

When you apply for an AVO, you also have to detail what you want the restraining order to do and this can be any number of things. It can prevent the respondent from harming people or property or from approaching or coming near certain people. It can prevent the respondent from putting up information on the internet about the protected person. You have to detail what you want the order to protect.

Once you file an application for an AVO, there will be a hearing at court. The respondent has a chance to answer the request for protection. The respondent might agree to the request and the judge or registrar will give the AVO. The respondent might ask for what’s called an undertaking which means he or she makes a promise to the protected person and the judge that the respondent will do or not do certain things. If the applicant agrees, the application for the AVO is withdrawn and instead there is an undertaking.

But you can refile for an AVO if the respondent doesn’t follow the conditions of the undertaking or promise. If the respondent contests or fights the application, then another date for a hearing will be set and it’s almost like a trial where the court hears evidence from both sides. If the respondent just doesn’t show up to the first hearing, the court will listen to the applicant and the reasons for making the request and then decide whether or not to give an AVO.

You can read more about family violence on our website or contact me. Do what you need to do to protect yourself or your family and contact somebody who can help you. I’m Vanessa Mathews from Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists.

Family Violence Family Violence

How does family violence affect women?

Family violence is a substantial and serious problem in Australia. It particularly affects women in terms of incidence, risk and ongoing consequences.

IncidenceRiskOngoing Consequences
For women in relationships:
  • 10% experience physical or sexual violence from their partner at some point in their lifetime.
  • The United Nations says domestic violence is the biggest health risk to women in Australia.
  • A Victorian study listed domestic violence as the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44.
  • 40% report at least one type of controlling behavior, including name calling, insults, put downs or behaviour that made the woman feel intimidated.
  • In 2007-2008 women were the victim in an intimate partner killing in nearly 80% of cases, this made women four times more likely to be a victim than a man.
Family Violence Family Violence

How does family violence affect children?

Often family violence and the breakdown of a relationship go hand in hand. This connection manifests in one of two ways; either the violence was the reason for the relationship breakdown, or the violence starts happening as a result of the relationship breakdown. While violence is always devastating for the victim, bear in mind that it can also have an impact on your children.

Children can be exposed to violence several ways. They can witness violence happening between their parents, they can actually be the victims of violence, and they can hear the violence occurring. Sometimes children are involved indirectly, for instance in situations where the violence occurs while the child is being held by the victim.

Psychologists have found that children who are exposed to family violence frequently display the same symptoms as children who have been abused or neglected. Essentially, the negative consequences of exposing children to any degree of family violence are undeniable. This behaviour can hinder a child’s emotional development, and there are also cognitive and social ramifications as well. Studies have further shown that the longer the violence lasts, and the more sever the conflict, the more critical the impact will be on the child.

Some signs that a child could be suffering from the negative effects of family violence have been identified as follows:

  • Fear and terror from witnessing or being directly involved in the abuse
  • Problems with relationships (including parents and siblings) which can carry on to adulthood
  • Lack of motivation at school
  • Social withdrawal
  • Aggression towards peers
  • Low self-esteem
  • Alcohol and drug abuse problems
  • Suicide attempts

Another major way in which family violence impacts the child is the extent to which the mothers’ caregiving abilities have been limited as the result of being the victim of violence. Often domestic violence can reverberate around a family, causing the otherwise non-abusive parent to abuse the children, or causing children to abuse each other. Abuse is cyclical, the effects of which can truly be devastating.

So what can you do if you fear your child is being affected by violence at home? Often victims are so emotionally and physically fatigued that they are unable to help themselves, let alone give their children the attention they need. However, it is important to recognise that while your child may not be the direct victim of violence, they can still be harmed by it, and there are steps you can take to mitigate the harm suffered by the child.

  1. Remove the child (and yourself) from the violent situation. This is often easier said than done, but the sooner you can remove yourself and your child from the violence, the less severe the long-term impact will be.
  2. Seek help. If you are the victim of domestic violence, you and your child will need to seek help in the form of protection, as well as therapy. Even if you think you have shielded your child from the family violence, chances are they have been affected in some way.
  3. Get back to a normal routine. The sooner your child has settled back into a normal routine, the quicker the recovery process can begin. Make sure the child continues to attend school, participate in extra-curricular activities, and have outings with friends.
  4. Surround the child with family and friends. Family violence often results in children feeling isolated and lonely, and withdrawing from social interactions. If you put your child in an environment where he or she is frequently around loved ones, this since of loneliness can be mitigated and the child may be less inclined to withdraw socially.
Best Interests & Parenting Best Interests & Parenting child arrangements Family Violence Family Violence Parenting Plans

Family Violence and Children at Risk

Every day in my practice as a family lawyer, family dispute resolution practitioner and mediator, I hear stories of family violence and children at risk.

Whilst family violence is a tragedy in and of itself, more tragic is the suffering caused to the children who are exposed,

in one way or another – by hearing, seeing, feeling – incidents of domestic violence and/or the aftermath of family violence.

The following article in ‘The Age’ reports the findings of a new study by the Australian Institute Family Studies which confirms what we already know – that children who are exposed to family violence are at higher risk of suffering sexual, emotional and physical abuse.

The issue is ‘What can be done to prevent children from being exposed to family violence, thereby reducing the risk of future abuse for these very same children?’

The Australian Institute of Family Studies report, which will be released on Wednesday, also shows that children exposed to domestic violence from an early age are more likely to experience difficulties at school and have lifelong problems with social and cognitive development.

The report, Children’s exposure to domestic and family violence, draws on local and international research to examine the effects on children raised in abusive households.

It found young people who grew up around domestic violence were at higher risk of other forms of abuse, and that exposure to family violence was the leading cause of homelessness in young people.

“It affects their development in such a global fashion,” AIFS director Anne Hollonds said. “The problems are extensive and they go right across physical and mental wellbeing, cognitive development, which obviously affects academic achievement and employment.”

The study found child abuse often co-existed with domestic violence and that victims of persistent maltreatment in childhood suffered similar effects to trauma, which can lead to aggression, self-hatred and a lack of awareness of danger.

Ms Hollonds said the experience of children exposed to violence at home was not well understood and that a fragmented response meant the most vulnerable children were falling through the cracks.

“What we have is a fragmented patchwork of some services in some areas often operating in quite a siloed way,” she said.

“For example, domestic violence support for women might not always be focusing on the needs of the children. Similarly, adult services for mental health or drug and alcohol issues might not have a focus on the needs of dependent children.

“Unfortunately in some families the problems are multiple, it’s not just violence towards the other parent but there is also various kinds of abuse that the children directly experience. This multi-victimization of children requires our urgent attention.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission released a report on Monday that found up to five children in every classroom had experienced or witnessed family violence.

The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, said children were the “invisible victims” of the domestic violence scourge and that growing up in an abusive household could have a devastating lifelong impact on a person’s mental and physical health.

She said children exposed to family violence might also feel they needed to defend the parent, or be the one to call police or an ambulance.

Crime statistics show Victoria Police were called to 65,400 family incidents in 2013-14 and that children were present in more than one-third of cases.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than half of victims abused by their partner had dependent children in their care at the time, with that figure rising to 61 per cent in cases of abuse at the hands of former partners.

Ms Hollonds said a multidisciplinary approach to domestic violence across health, child protection and family services sectors was needed to help the most disadvantaged families, who are often dealing with complex problems but face the most barriers accessing help.

“We have a late reaction policy culture and find it difficult to co-ordinate across portfolios,” she said. “The key is acting earlier because often we don’t find out about the problems people are having until they’ve escalated to a very serious stage, and by then children will have been affected.”

Read more:

The Age:

The Australian Institute of Family Studies:

Lifeline for counselling and support:

If you would believe you would benefit from legal advice about family violence and/or other relationship issues, please contact Vanessa Mathews, Accredited Family Law Specialist Australian family lawyers, Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists, Level 2, 599 Malvern Road, Toorak, Victoria, phone 1300 635 529, email

Vanessa is an expert specialist Melbourne Divorce Lawyer with many years of experience in advising clients about family violence and family law issues.

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