Domestic Violence – We All Have a Responsibility
I have worked in Family Law for over 20 years and sadly I have acted for many clients, both men and women, who were victims of domestic violence. It is devastating to see people from all manner of families arrive in my office with such a sad history of abuse. The years, sometimes decades of abuse are apparent in their guarded disclosures, their common downplaying of the abuse (he was really stressed; she had a hard childhood) and most tellingly in the way they sat, walked and generally withdrew from life. As incredibly distressing as these interactions are, what makes me the most angry are the people who use allegations of domestic violence to further their own cause in the Family Court. They exaggerate, embellish or just blatantly create instances of violence and abuse to discredit their former partners and try and further their own cases. These vocal few are the ones who are planting that seed of doubt in the minds of the police, the lawyers and the Courts. In court cases involving separated couples the evidence of an abused person is not just accepted - they have to "prove" their abuse, relive each moment and try and convince the court that their case is "real" - that they are not just making it up to get a better result in court. It is truly distressing to see these genuine victims of abuse struggle to re tell their stories. There are rarely any consequences for misleading the court for those that are found to have embellished or simply lied about incidents. The definition of abuse is very wide, and we have to be very sensitive and take seriously every client that raises this issue. But I just implore people to ignore any advice from people to accuse a man or a woman of deliberate abuse when it never occurred. It just diminishes the seriousness of actual cases and makes their lives so much harder. If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional, physical, verbal or psychological abuse, please seek help. Contact a counselling service and seek good legal advice as soon as you can.