Using law and leaving domestic violence

One in three Australian women experience domestic violence. This research will increase our understanding of the role of law in assisting women of diverse backgrounds to live a life free of violence.

Domestic violence severely damages communities across the globe and law is recognised as a key mechanism for prevention and redress. This project will undertake a longitudinal study examining how women of diverse backgrounds use law to help them live a life free of violence. The project will investigate what influences women's decisions to choose particular legal interventions but not others, and will identify any unintended consequences flowing from legal engagement. The project will highlight what contributes to women’s satisfaction and sense of safety resulting from legal interventions over time, to make an important contribution to community education, policy implementation and law reform, both within Australia and internationally.

This research is funded by the Australian Research Council's Future Fellowship scheme (project number FT140100796). The project leader is Professor Heather Douglas.

Legal responses, including civil protection  orders, criminal law, family law, child protection and immigration law, are a significant part of the response to  domestic violence; however the way in which different legal systems overlap, conflict and work together has been an issue of major concern for law and policy makers and for women who use law.

Understanding the way in which women from diverse backgrounds engage with law has important implications for policy development and law reform. Regardless of whether the victim and the perpetrator begin to live separately or continue to reside together, there are often complex and continuing emotional, financial and legal ties between them and enduring and complex power dynamics. Financial and care responsibilities and visiting rights to children often remain post-separation.

This research  will listen to women’s experience of  the range of legal interventions available in cases of domestic violence, in order to understand how women engage with and experience legal interventions over time. Understanding how women use and experience legal interventions is critical to ensuring that education, policies and laws are developed which work for the women they are designed to protect.

As part of this research a series of interviews with women recruited from domestic and family violence services will be conducted. Women will be interviewed three times over a three year period.

In The Conversation:

Refereed Journal Articles:


View case studies based on interviews undertaken with women who have agreed to be interviewed for this research.

Case studies