University of Tasmania
whole-hopcroft-thesis-1985.pdf (16.01 MB)

Domestic violence

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posted on 2023-05-25, 23:57 authored by Hopcroft, RB
While concern about the plight of victims of family violence was influential in selecting this area for study, my concern extends to all situations where differential treatment by the legal system either directly or indirectly deprives a class or category of victims of equal access to the law to their ultimate detriment. The thesis took, as a starting point, homicide and serious assault: Those statistics which gave the sex and relationship of victim and aggressor, concluded that such violence was more likely to be perpetrated by an acquaintance than a stranger, a nd that the aggressors were overwhelmingly male. Given that the law governing assault makes no distinction based on marital status, (other than an indecent assault charge in an instance of marital rape), the hypothesis was that procedurally the entire legal system operated in a manner that distinguished assaults on the basis of whether such assaults occurred between intimates or strangers. In other words, one law would be implemented differentially and consistently over time and in relation to a certain class of victims so that a pattern would emerge. Rather than the whole spectrum of family violence, the focus was on spouse-assault and the factors prohibiting victims of spouse-assault from receiving the same protection that the law on assault theoretically gives all citizens.This differential treatment, based on marital status and the relationship of victim and aggressor, is viewed both as discriminatory and ultimately disadvantageous to the victim, their spouse, their children and to the wider society. The domestic violence law reforms in other jurisdictions are analysed. The conclusion is that only distinct domestic violence law reforms, with more appropriate sanctions and efficacious enforcement procedures and support services, will begin to afford the domestic violence victim some measure of protection. The problem of domestic violence is not seen simply in the context of a failure of the legal system to adequately respond to spouse assaults, but as a pervasive problem embedded in the values of the wider society. Social support services are often inert or operate in a manner antithetical to the victim's interests. The thesis contains a number of recommendations intended to give some structure and indicate principles upon which any future Tasmanian domestic violence law reforms could be based. While the thesis was limited to spouse-assault, the law reforms proposed are gender neutral, they apply to all who suffer violence, harassment and abuse and who require the law's protection to restrain the offender.


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