Friday, 22 February 2019 09:24

Waiting for Justice

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“Therapeutic jurisprudence says that the processes used by courts, judicial officers, lawyers and other justice system personnel can impede, promote or be neutral in relation to outcomes connected with participant wellbeing such as respect for the justice system and the law, offender rehabilitation and addressing issues underlying legal disputes. Developed by Professors David Wexler and Bruce Winick in the United States in the 1980s in the context of mental health law, it is now seen to apply to all areas of the law and across cultures and is the subject of international study and development.”

This is taken from the website of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration. I am interested in it particularly at this time because of some of the issues women face as they seek divorce and a fair distribution of assets after domestic abuse.

As I am sure you are aware, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that, on average, in this country, one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner. They have found too that one man a month is killed by a current or former partner. These are statistics for a nation to be deeply ashamed of. How do we as a community begin to address this appalling and frightening issue? How do we take personal responsibility for our neighbours, friends and loved ones? It will take courage and determination by every adult person to turn this around and make our homes safe.

Horrifyingly, this is the tip of the heart-freezing iceberg when we consider the countless numbers of men, women and children who face violence every day of their lives. They wake in the morning to another day of fear and pain. They face violence at every level of their beings: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.

Some women escape and begin the unbelievably long journey to justice as the courts grind ever so slowly to their hard won conclusions. What happens during this time, is that the abuse continues while they wait and try to make sense of the powerlessness of the law to protect them during this process.

Many women continue to receive threats, both veiled and overt, so they still live in fear, and trickery such as the hiding of assets and the withholding of a fair and reasonable income from property. At times they are completely without funds or access to support. This is occurring while they fight the demons that are the legacy of terrifying control and violence, watching it continue, knowing they are unprotected and face countless delays by the courts, valuers and the tactics of previous partners.

So I ask about therapeutic jurisprudence in this regard. This is a serious issue underlying legal dispute which affects the mental health of those who wait and try to fight for justice. Meagre support is available through Centrelink but is not always accessible for various reasons. It is a complex issue, I know, but where can they find recognition, assistance and support while this goes on? And where do they find a home to replace the one they have been forced to flee?

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