Call for legislation to protect victims of family violence from being directly cross-examined by their abuser
Women's Legal Services Australia (WLSA) is conducting a survey regarding the issue of women being directly cross-examined by their perpetrators in family law matters. This can re-traumatise women and negatively affect the legal outcome for women and their children. WLSA is calling for legislation to protect victims of domestic violence from being directly cross-examined by their abuser in family law proceedings. The survey is aimed at women who have experienced family and domestic violence and been involved in family law children’s proceedings. The survey should take five to ten minutes to complete and will remain open until 31st December 2015. Go to the survey
Every state and territory jurisdiction now has legislative protections in sexual offence trials to stop an accused person directly cross-examining their victim. Similar legislative protections exist in domestic violence
intervention order courts in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. At a Commonwealth level, legislative protections were introduced in 2013 in criminal trials for slavery and sex trafficking offences.
We know that women who have lived with family and domestic violence may have been sexually assaulted, physically assaulted, feared for their lives and been emotionally damaged. Yet there is insufficient protection in family law proceedings to prevent an alleged abuser from directly cross-examining the victim. This has the effect of further abusing and re-traumatisating women. WLSA says that this often leads to women choosing to settle their family law matters on less than satisfactory terms to avoid being cross-examined by, or having to cross-examine, a violent ex-partner.
The independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, recently called on the Australian Government to 'amend family law legislation to ensure that in situations of family violence, an unrepresented litigant alleged or known to have perpetrated violence is unable to directly cross-examine the victim’. Ms McGowan made a Private Member’s Motion on Monday 19 October. Karen McNamara (Member for Dobell - Liberal Party); Sharon Claydon (Member for Newcastle - ALP); and Graham Perrett (Member for Moreton - ALP) also joined Ms McGowan in speaking to the Private Members Motion calling on the Government to amend the Family Law Act.
There is a petition organised by Fair Agenda calling on the Attorney-General to change the law. You can access this here. WLSA is also encouraging individuals and organisations to write to the Attorney-General, Minister for Women and their local member calling for a change to the law.