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June 2019
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Women experiencing domestic violence face a myriad of legal and related problems

Dr Christine Coumarelos, June 2019 

New analysis of the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey reveals that respondents who had experienced domestic and family violence (DFV) were 10 times more likely to report a wide range of legal problems other than domestic violence compared to the rest of the population. Their legal problems were also more likely to be severe and have greater adverse knock-on effects on their physical and mental health, housing and income. 

This paper provides the first quantitative assessment using Australian population data of the legal problems linked to DFV victimisation. 
Our analysis revealed that in a 12-month period, DFV respondents: 
  • experienced 20 legal problems on average, including 16 legal problems other than DFV victimisation, compared to only 2 legal problems for other respondents
  • were a massive 16 times as likely to experience family law problems
  • were 3 to 6 times more likely to experience other criminal and civil law problems including consumer, credit/debt, employment, health-related, housing and rights problems.
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Policy implications

  1. Experiencing DFV has a compounding effect on legal and related problems, often requiring a holistic, joined-up approach to legal and human services.
  2. Joined-up services for DFV could usefully screen for a broad array of legal and related needs.
  3. As DFV goes hand in hand with serious family law problems, coordinated service approaches such as Domestic Violence Units (DVUs) and the Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) scheme should remain a government policy priority.
  4. Joined-up services would benefit from expansion to cover the criminal and civil law problems often tied up with DFV.
  5. Wrap-around legal and human services for DFV require adequate ongoing funding and professional training to operate effectively and meet demand.
This research, which provides the first quantitative assessment of the broader legal impacts on people experiencing DFV, is only possible with data obtained through a rigorous legal needs survey. The 2012 LAW Survey remains the most comprehensive population-level assessment of legal need and problem-solving behaviour available in Australia.
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