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Family Violence in a Digital Age

Family violence can be perpetrated online and from an entirely different country and jurisdiction, which presents challenges in protecting individuals. Whilst Intervention Orders are enforceable and binding within Australia, they offer minimal protection in other jurisdictions and therefore fail to protect victims of family violence. International family law matters including family violence can no longer be compartmentalised and limited to its initial jurisdiction. It is paramount that victims of family violence are provided with safeguards which are not defeated by national borders.

Within the digital age, abusers are utilising a number of techniques and technologies to perpetrate family violence including stalking, harassment, impersonation, using cloud-based storage including iCloud and Google, GPS data and surveillance devices and controlling social networks. A study on domestic violence and communication technology conducted by the Queensland University of Technology considered the survivor experience of intrusion, surveillance and identity crime. The study found that 100% of family violence survivors who had been abused by an intimate partner reported technological abuse commencing or escalating at separation. It was found that technology was used to control and coerce the victims of family violence. It is imperative therefore, that the international family law community cooperates to address this growing concern by creating a seamless approach to protecting victims of family violence perpetrated online and across borders.

Intervention Orders made in Victoria are nationally recognised Orders. Under the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme, all Domestic Violence Orders made in an Australian state or territory from 25 November 2017 are automatically recognised and enforced across Australia.  Whilst a Magistrate in Victoria is able to consider incidents of family violence that occur outside of Australia, Family Violence Orders made in Victoria cannot be enforceable in an international jurisdiction. Australian Intervention Orders are therefore limited because they do not afford victims of family violence with adequate protection in the event that the violence is perpetrated in a different, or across multiple jurisdictions.

It is interesting to consider the steps other countries have taken to address family violence perpetrated across multiple jurisdictions. In December 2011, the European Union (EU) pioneered and adopted the EU Domestic Protection Regulation, a Europe-wide protection order to protect victims of family violence across Europe. The regulation guarantees that persons affected by family violence can rely on restraint or protection Orders issued against the perpetrator in all EU countries. The enforcement of any Order made in the state in which the enforcement is to occur can be used by the victim even if this is not available in their own country where they obtained the protection Order originally. Regulations are the most direct form of EU law as they are legally binding on every member state as soon as they are passed and have equal force with the national laws.

In light of the increase in family violence perpetrated online and across multiple jurisdictions, it is paramount that International Justice systems continue to adapt to ensure that safeguards are implemented to uphold the safety of victims of family violence.

By Olivia Melville, Associate.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


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