Study into domestic violence and legal need reinforces urgency to invest in wraparound

A study released today by the Law and Justice Foundation into domestic violence and legal need has reinforced the urgency to invest in wraparound responses and expand referral pathways for women and their children who have experienced domestic and family violence.

The study involved interviews with over 20,000 Australians and found that women experiencing domestic and family violence are ten times as vulnerable to legal problemsas the rest of the population, yet less than half of them access legal advice.

Dr Christine Coumarelos, who undertook the research at the Foundation, found that in addition to their domestic and family violence legal issues, women experiencing such violence also experienced at least one other type of legal problem in a staggering 92% of cases.

The biggest of these was family law issues, where women experiencing domestic and family violence were 16 times more likely to have issues, but criminal and civil law issues were also more likely – and legal issues we found to compound upon one another.

Not surprisingly, most women experiencing domestic violence reported legal problems as having a “severe” impact on their everyday lives, compared with less than a quarter of the rest of the population. Common impacts included, stress-related illness, physical ill health, relationship breakdown, loss of income or financial strain and moving home.

So, what are the policy implications?

Dr Coumarelos found “the results reinforce the evidence base on wrap-around services better meeting the needs of domestic violence clients, which underpins initiatives such as Domestic Violence Units and Family Advocacy Support Servicesin the courts.”

But these integrated services are not universally available. In fact, despite positive independent evaluations being undertaken of each of these programs, with recommendation for expansion, neither of these “crucial” programs for women and children’s safety have been expanded to regional, rural and remote locations.

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