Is family violence the same criminal offence as domestic abuse?

In Queensland, 265 people were killed by a family member or intimate partner between July 2006 and April 2018, according to the Queensland Courts' domestic and family homicide overview. Countless more individuals have been physically injured or emotionally scarred for life. Domestic violence offences tear families and relationships apart, making this area of criminal law a priority legal focus.

Because family violence and domestic abuse can span such a broad range of incidents, the legislation covering these criminal offences is deliberately equivocal and can be complex to navigate. To further understand this area of the law, Russo Lawyers' experts define the difference between 'family violence' and 'domestic abuse', and how these felonies are prosecuted in Queensland.

What's the difference between family violence and domestic abuse?

There are various forms of domestic violence, including:

  • Physical violence causing minor or long-term injury.
  • Sexual abuse and engaging in non-consensual sexual actions with an individual.
  • Verbal threats or ongoing aggravating language.
  • Emotional or psychological blackmail and manipulation.
  • Imposing financial constraints on an individual or limiting their freedom of movement.

These actions can be performed by one or more individuals against a single or multiple victims. Additionally, offenders can still be prosecuted if individuals dependent on either the victim or offender become associated with domestic abuse acts. As such, the victims of mistreatment often determine how an offence is classified.

Domestic abuse goes beyond just violence - it covers multiple aspects of mistreatment. Domestic abuse goes beyond just violence – it covers multiple aspects of mistreatment.

The terms family violence and domestic abuse are often used interchangeably. However, the terminology differentiates between offences committed by a family member against another family member (family violence) and the abuse of an intimate partner by one or more intimate partners. In short, the terms specify the relationship between offender(s) and victim(s), rather than the nature of their crimes. In all cases, incidents of abuse in the home are covered by the same legislative act in Queensland – the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012.

What do I need to know about the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012?

Domestic violence legislation is complicated as it aims to cover family violence as separate from common assault or other non-domestic equivalents. The Australian Law Reform Commission shows that Queensland was an early adopter of legislation covering family violence felonies. The Act was introduced in 2012 in response to concerns that common assault prosecution was not dissuading offenders from committing crimes or securing criminal justice for victims. 

The Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 covers incidents of domestic abuse in relation to:

  • Victims, also known as the 'aggrieved', and their right to protection.
  • Offenders, also know as 'respondents', and their legal options in responding to domestic violence cases.
  • Other individuals involved in an incident, such as dependents like children and those in the care of either party, or other family members and intimate partners.
The Act offers individuals involved in a domestic abuse situation clarity on legal ramifications and responses. The Act offers individuals involved in a domestic abuse situation clarity on legal ramifications and responses.

The Act marks an improvement on past legal precedents in identifying patterns of domestic abuse and differentiating these issues from single cases of violence. The new legislation also specifies how aggrieved individuals can help themselves against current or former family members and intimate partners through a domestic violence protection order prior to any court hearing.

What's a domestic abuse protection order?

Orders offer relief for victims of both once-off and systemic family violence incidents. These legal instructions are made through Queensland Family Court, and can also be made by police after an incident of domestic abuse is reported and the victim consents to such action being taken. The document is a form of restraining order that prohibits abusers from making contact with the aggrieved and restricts respondents from visiting places such as shared accommodation or other family members' homes.

How do I respond to a domestic abuse protection order?

If you have been involved in a family violence or domestic issue, an individual can seek a protection order against you. Once you have received a copy of this document, you have three options:

  • You can consent to the order. This requires you to agree, in writing or through legal representation, with the protection terms and ensure you follow them. These orders normally last for five years, unless otherwise specified, and will not mark your criminal record unless you breach the agreed-upon terms.
  • You can reject the order. If you want to challenge the issue, you have the right to take legal proceedings to family court and present your case to the magistrate.
  • You can adjourn your decision. This has to be within a period agreed with by the victim and their legal representation. This time should help you find a criminal law solicitor to help determine your next steps.
No matter how you want to respond to a domestic violence protection order, you should secure legal assistance. No matter how you want to respond to a domestic violence protection order, you should secure legal assistance.

No matter your course of action, securing the services of a criminal lawyer is vital when responding to a protection order. Family violence and domestic abuse are offences taken very seriously by the courts of Queensland, meaning you need the best assistance possible to help you secure a favourable legal outcome. Russo Lawyers' team of solicitors has decades of criminal law experience in supporting our clients – contact us today to see what we can offer.

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