The Family Law Act defines family violence as ‘Conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards, or towards the property of, a member of the person’s family that causes that or any other member of the person’s family to fear for, or to be apprehensive about, his or her personal well-being or safety.’
The violence is a broad range of physical, sexual, economically and of psychological nature. The Family Law Act requires the court to have regard to the need to protect individuals from harm and violence.
The majority of victims of domestic violence are women and children. The ABS in 1996 conducted a study that measured the level of physical and sexual violence against women during the 12 month period. 23% of women who have been married or in a de facto relationship experienced violence by their partners at some time and 9% suffered emotional abuse.
Battered Wife Syndrome has been recognized in Australia as a defence to the charge of murder for females since the case of R v Rujanjic & Kontinnen (1991). This defence was developed to explain to the court the actions of a woman who has suffered long-term abuse from a spouse.
In the case of Osland v R (1996), Heather Osland was a woman and a victim of her husband Franks rage of domestic violence, along with her four children. Provoking her just enough, Heather and one of her son’s plotted Frank’s murder and committed the crime shortly after. Osland v R is significant as an example of the psychological concept of Battered Woman Syndrome as it relates to the murder defences of provocation and self-defence and may be used as a defence in cases involving domestic violence. The majority in Osland indicates that expert evidence of BWS should not be distinct in itself, but must be linked firmly to the facts of the case and the relevant legal principles.
The response to domestic violence is typically a combined effort between law enforcement agencies, the courts, social service agencies and corrections/probation...