Staying home option for domestic violence victims
Leaving home and seeking refuge elsewhere has tended to be the only real option for women wishing to escape a violent partner. While hardly ideal, that has typically been the pattern.
But there is another option for women living with domestic violence, and one that is gaining some momentum staying at home. In other words, instead of the woman being the one to leave, the perpetrator of the violence has to leave.
Its called an exclusion order. And it does just that; exclude the violent person from living in the home, in order to protect the victim/s.
The benefits would seem clear, particularly in situations involving children. Instead of the upheaval and financial burden of having to set up a new home, the person who has been mistreated gets to maintain a sense of normalcy. Children dont have to be uprooted from their community, school and friends. Plus it seems only fair that the offender be saddled with the burden of relocation.
But until recently, despite the law allowing them, exclusion orders have been fairly uncommon.
For a start, many women werent aware that they could ask for an exclusion order when they applied for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO).
And Magistrates were often reluctant to order the perpetrator to leave his own home, particularly if the violence had not been severe. While there are many refuges and support services available to women, emergency accommodation for violent offenders has not tended to be a focus for government funding.
And of course, removing the offender from the home doesnt automatically solve the problem. There may still be the risk of violence, particularly given that the perpetrator knows exactly where to find his victim. And the woman may not be able to afford the financial costs of staying in the home on her own.
Many of these concerns have been addressed in a program called Staying Home Leaving Violence, piloted in Bega in 2004 with considerable success. The program has since been introduced in eight NSW locations, and in March 2010 the NSW Government announced its intention to fund the expansion of the program to an additional ten locations, chosen because of their local police crime figures and homelessness rates.
The funding covers things like conducting individual risk assessments to see if staying at home is a safe option, upgrading security in the home, crisis accommodation for offenders, and advertising to raise awareness about the choices available to women.
While exclusion orders wont fit every situation, at least their existence challenges the assumption that women must be the ones to move out to escape violence, and puts greater emphasis on considering the interests of the protected person.