Judges in Australia have published the country’s first national guidelines for the judiciary in domestic abuse cases.
The New South Wales (NSW) Judicial Commission’s new guide encourages judges to consider all aspects of abuse rather than just physical attacks.
Emotional and psychological abuse can consist of “angry verbal outbursts”, the “withdrawal of affection”, ignoring a partner and prolonged silence according to the guide. Over a sustained period of time, these can form a “complex pattern of violent or abusive behaviours”.
The guide also advises that criticising a partner’s appearance or the way they keep the house can also be a possible sign of abuse. However Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, chair of the Law Council of Australia’s Domestic and Family Violence Taskforce, said “one-off” criticisms would not count. For something like this to constitute abuse, it would have to be ongoing behaviour that “coerces, controls or causes fear” in a partner, she said.
Moo Baulch is the CEO of campaign charity Domestic Violence NSW. She welcomed the new guidelines, stating that for a lot of people non-violent abuse is “often a lot harder to recover from than the physical abuse”.
There are “many abusive relationships where there is never any physical violence”, she explained, but those victims can be kept from seeing family and friends or they could be financially controlled by their partner. “You don’t need a black eye for it to be abuse”, Ms Baulch said.
The guide comes shortly after the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team claimed lawyers and judges used victim blaming language in these cases.
NSW Police dealt with 29,227 cases of domestic violence last year, Australia’s Daily Telegraph reports. This was a record high for the state.