There are many questions that come up when we discuss domestic violence with people who haven't experienced it, like why doesn't she just leave him? One of those questions is, why doesn't she just get an AVO? While she certainly should get an AVO, there are reasons why many women feel that isn't enough protection.
It is dangerous to leave
According to the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team, 37% of the women who were the victim of intimate partner homicide were killed by an ex-husband or ex de facto husband. Of the remaining 63%, in 43% of those cases the victim was contemplating leaving or leaving was 'imminent'. You can read their report by following this link.
If we put those numbers together, 65% of the homicide victims were killed by a partner they had left, or were trying to or thinking about leaving. Leaving is a very dangerous time.
Furthermore, this shouldn't be portrayed as the victim's problem. One in three women in the world who have been in a relationship will experience intimate partner violence in their life time (see here). Unfortunately there are still large parts of society that think this behaviour is acceptable, and many of these women will ask for help only to be told that they need to change their behaviour. Telling a woman to 'just leave' is an extension of this, no one tells the man to just stop. Why is this a problem that should be solved by the victim?
Does an AVO help?
Remember that an AVO mostly deals with behaviours that are already illegal, such as assault and harassment. AVOs can be useful to help stop behaviours like repeated phone calls, or turning up at a victims work, but at the tend of the day it is illegal to assault, harrass, or kill someone. Some reports say that one third of homicide victims of domestic violence had an AVO in place. While that means two thirds didn't, one has to wonder whether those women getting an AVO would have achieved anything.
A report in September 2016 by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research into AVOs found that 20% of final AVOs were breached by the Defendant (you can read that report here). That is, the court found that 20% of them were breached.
We don't know how many breaches of them actually occur because sometimes victims don't report, and sometimes the Police look into the victim's accusation and decide there was no breach when there was. The Police, like the Courts, can also make mistakes. All humans make mistakes.
AVOs are certainly valuable, not all domestic violence situations end in death, and some dangerous situations are mitigated by the victim and their support persons taking the necessary steps to remove her safely which can include obtaining an AVO. The victim should certainly seek an AVO. However, it is only part of the puzzle, just like it is not a case of the victim 'just' leaving without taking steps to protect themselves, it is also not a case of the victim 'just' getting an AVO.
Want to know more?
If you would like to know more about domestic violence, click on this link to read some more of our articles.