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What does the Act say? – The Definition of Domestic Violence

Most people know what domestic violence is and many have directly or indirectly experienced a domestic violence situation. What most people don’t know is that domestic violence is recognised by the legal system in several forms.

It should be noted that whether the conduct occurred on one occasion or multiple occasions or whether it falls within one or several of the categories, the conduct may still constitute domestic violence under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (“the Act”).

Physical or Sexual Abuse

This kind of abuse, or attempts to commit this type of abuse, are of a physical nature and often result in physical injury to the person against whom the conduct is directed. However, it can involve threats.

This is the most acknowledged and often most confronting category of domestic violence and it is something we have seen a lot of in the media quite recently. It is provided for in section 8 of the Act and it can be recognised as follows:-

  • s 8(2) of the Act gives a number of examples:Causing, or attempting to cause, physical injury;
    • Coercing, or attempting to coerce, sexual activity,
    • Damaging property or threatening to do so;
    • Depriving a person of their liberty or threatening to do so;

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse is infinitely more difficult to detect and is much less understood than the former category. It can be recognised as follows:-

  • Section 11 of the Act defines emotional or psychological abuse as “behaviour by a person towards another person that torments, intimidates, harasses or is offensive to the other person” and includes:-Death threats including against a child or other person;
    • Threats of suicide or self-harm  to torment, intimidate or frighten the person ;
    • Stalking;
    • Excessive communication (via SMS, online messaging, phone calls etc.) especially of a derogatory or threatening kind.

Economic Abuse

Economic abuse usually comes hand in hand with psychological abuse. Again, this kind of abuse is not widely understood and is difficult to detect. It can be recognised as follows:-

  • Section 12 of the Act defines economic abuse as:
    • The denial of a person’s “economic or financial autonomy” (autonomy being individual free will or independence) that they otherwise would have had; or
    • Withholding or threatening to withhold financial support “necessary for meeting the reasonable living expenses” of the person or a child of the person where they are “entirely or predominantly dependent” on the support.
    • Section 12 further states that economic abuse will be of a coercive, deceptive or unreasonably controlling nature.

The contents of this article are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Please seek appropriate legal advice before proceeding with any course of action. You can contact us here for a consultation.