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:

Video Resources

Workshop Communique

Media:

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

Case studies

  • Heather Douglas, ‘Alternative constructions of a family violence offence.’ Roundtable- Criminalising Psychological Abuse in the Context of Family Violence, Deakin University, 24 November 2017.
  • Heather Douglas, ‘Legal responses to domestic violence in the context of Human Services’ Department of Human Services (Cth) In-service, Brisbane, 11 October 2017.
  • Heather Douglas, ‘Domestic violence protection orders and their role in ensuring personal security’ Monash Prato Roundtable: Intimate partner violence, risk and security: Securing women’s lives in a global world, Prato, Italy, 19 September 2017.
  • Heather Douglas, ‘Strangulation in the context of domestic and family Violence’  Presentation to the Queensland Domestic Violence Death Review Board, 25 August 2017.
  • Heather Douglas, ‘Domestic violence and mental illness: Implications for legal engagement’ Conference presentation, XXXVth International Congress on Law and Mental health, Charles University, Prague, 12 July 2017.
  • Heather Douglas, ‘ Criminal Justice issues and the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book’ Seminar, Robertson O’Gorman Solicitors, Brisbane, 5 July 2017.
  • Heather Douglas, ‘Legal Systems (Abuse) and Domestic Violence’ , RMIT Law School Staff Seminar, 22 September 2016, Melbourne.  
  • Heather Douglas, ‘Coordinating responses: plugging the gaps in the system’ Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Australian Chapter 3rd Annual Conference, 18 August 2016, Brisbane.
  • Douglas, Heather Anne (2016). Prosecuting Domestic Violence Cases: Is a New Offence the Answer?. In: IAS Fellows Seminar, Durham University, UK, 25 January.
  • Douglas, Heather Anne (2016). Using Law in Response to Domestic Abuse: Women's Experiences. In: Domestic Abuse and the Search for Justice: Principles, Practices, Policies, Durham, 16 March 2016.
  • Douglas, Heather Anne (2016). Legal Systems Abuse and Coercive Control. In: Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Back? Contemporary Issues in Access to Justice for Victims of Family and Domestic Violence, Legal Intersections Research Centre, School of Law, University of Wollongong, (). 15 April 2016.