Page 1153 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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sexual assault and domestic, family and cultural violence are women. Statistics show that one in three women over the age of 45 had experienced domestic violence, and that 89 per cent of all reported sexual assaults during 2003 were perpetrated against women.

This motion recognised that the ending of gender-based and domestic violence required the dedication and assistance of all members of the community. Violent acts occur daily across Australia and the world and will only stop through the cooperation and the combined efforts of the entire world community. Mr Speaker, I think it is worth noting that the motion was passed unanimously, showing the commitment of the members of this Assembly to assisting in the elimination of violence against women.

This bill highlights the ACT government’s commitment to protecting vulnerable members of our community from domestic violence and injury. I would like to highlight the important definitional changes that the bill makes in regard to domestic violence, consistent with the definitions in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Clause 8 of the bill significantly expands the definition of domestic violence to include threats to, or acts against, pets and animals, burglary and destroying and damaging property.

Threats against, or abuse of, pets and animals are terrifying. Also, power tools sometimes can be used by abusers to inflict fear and harm upon their victims. A victim could feel helpless in regard to protecting a pet, often a loved member of the family, against violence. A victim may feel that it is necessary to remain in a violent situation to ensure the protection of an animal. The expansion of the definition of domestic violence to include threats to animals and abuse offers greater protection to victims and provides an avenue for convicting abusers, should such threats or abuse occur.

Including burglary and destroying and damaging property in the definition of domestic violence also provides further protection to victims. It may be very difficult for a victim to leave a violent relationship if all the victim’s property has been stolen or destroyed. Abusers often recognise that and destroy clothes, accessories, children’s toys, furniture and other personal effects, thus leaving victims with little more than the clothes on their backs. That is a manipulative and intimidating action, and one that can lead to mental injury and distress.

In fact, only in the last six months I came across a relationship breakdown in which, while there was no physical violence against the woman, there was certainly a great deal of psychological intimidation going on. I know that the husband in that relationship was refusing to allow his wife to take any of her belonging out of the home, claiming that they all belonged to him. No-one has the right to destroy another’s property. This clause further protects the rights of the victim.

Clause 8 of the bill also recognises that a person’s behaviour will be classified as domestic violence if it causes personal injury, not just physical injury, to someone. While physical scars heal, mental scars often remain for years after the mental abuse takes place. Many abusers use mental intimidation as a way of degrading their victims, to make them feel worthless. Abusers strip victims of their confidence and make them believe that they are nothing, that they would not survive without the abusers. This manipulation and abuse makes victims believe that they have to stay in the violent relationship as they are not capable of living without the abuser. The recognition of a

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