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​Our Watch welcomes national domestic violence guidelines

August 24 2016 By Rebecca Hyde, Our Watch Media Manager

Our Watch, the national organisation established to stop violence against women and their children before it starts, welcomes the release of the Commonwealth funded National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book.

The first national domestic violence guidelines provide a comprehensive framework for judges and magistrates dealing with domestic and family violence cases.

Our Watch Chief Executive Officer Mary Barry said “The handbook not only provides guidance for the judicial system but it also highlights that violence is not always physical. It can be psychological, economic, emotional, and include a wide range of controlling behaviours.

“When it comes to violence against women, the shocking murders we hear about every week are the tip of a much bigger iceberg. For every woman murdered, hundreds of thousands are living with violence and abuse — violence which takes many different and often less obvious forms.

“Physical violence itself takes many forms — including sexual abuse, hitting, slapping, shoving, kicking or, biting. And it is shockingly common — statistics tell us one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. But even when no punches are thrown, it doesn’t mean no harm is done.”

The spectrum of violence against women can include: 

  • Controlling behaviours, sex without consent and emotional or psychological abuse, and taunting, manipulating, humiliating, threatening, victim-blaming, coercing and stalking.
  • Violent and controlling behaviours such as telling a woman what to wear, where she can go, when she must come home and who she can talk to, or exerting financial control — e.g. withholding money, controlling family finances.
  • Emotional or psychological violence such as belittling and humiliating her, making threats against children or pets, threatening to commit suicide or self-harm if demands are not met, and deliberately isolating the person from her friends, family or culture.
As our national prevention framework Change the story shows, the only way violence against women can be sustainably reduced in Australia is by changing the social norms, structures and practices that drive or inadvertently excuse or condone such violence in all parts of our society, including the justice system. 

Barry said “While we think of the justice system as just being about responding to violence, those working in this sector can also play an important role in preventing that violence. They can do this by taking care in the way they discuss and describe violence against women, using correct and accurate terminology, avoiding the perpetuation of myths, challenging misunderstandings, understanding violence in a social context, and paying close attention to the impacts of violence on different groups of people. I am very encouraged to see that these are all areas covered by these new guidelines”.

Our Watch welcomes the guidelines as an important step in the right direction. 

The first stage of the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book is available on the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration's website.

Media contact:

Rebecca Hyde, Acting Media Manager, Our Watch: 0426 501 185 or rebecca.hyde@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Read guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.

About Our Watch

Our Watch’s purpose is to raise awareness and engage policy-makers and the Australian community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

To do this the organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as through schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy.

Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.