Why early prevention is the cure to domestic violence
THE root causes of domestic violence run deep through the cracks of our society and there is no bandaid solution to end it.
This philosophy is what assists magistrate Tracy Mossop in how she dictates her sentences to perpetrators of domestic violence who regularly pass through her courthouses.
The magistrate has practised between Brisbane, Beaudesert, Ipswich, and her current role requires her to travel the southwest and work in courthouses in Dalby, Chinchilla, St George, Oakey and Taroom.
Domestic violence cases in the southwest are unique for a number of reasons.
The magistrate said what differs domestic violence cases in the southwest from other locations is the external factors that influence the offending.
The drug epidemic in the southwest is a “major contributor” to domestic violence offences.
Ms Mossop estimated that 11 per cent of cases she oversees are domestic violence related, and 15 to 17 per cent of those are contraventions of domestic violence orders.
Ms Mossop started practising at a time when the different facets of domestic violence, particularly emotional, psychological and financial were widely misunderstood or unheard of in public conversation.
Between when she started practising and now, Ms Mossop said the number of support services was greater, and awareness of domestic violence and its different forms and shapes.
One commonality between the diverse places she has worked in is that domestic violence is everywhere.
“Domestic violence is universal,” she said.
“It is non-gender specific. Sadly, self-centred people who let their emotions take over lives everywhere.”
Domestic violence orders were also a relatively new concept when Ms Mossop first began practising, she said.
Now, domestic violence orders are more commonly known and used, and more severe consequences come into play when a domestic violence order is breached.
“The consequences of breaching an order, which commits a criminal offence, is a significant deterrent for most alleged perpetrators,” Ms Mossop said.
But applying for a domestic violence order, granting one, and abiding by one, presents challenges in itself.
It becomes more difficult when children are involved.
“Most challenges exist in the realm of orders being sought where on the application itself there is no actual act of domestic violence alleged and the complaint is about parenting issues,” Ms Mossop said.
“Thankfully I can count on one hand out of the thousands of domestic violence related matters I have dealt with in the court of some 27 years in the law that have caused me great concern for the aggrieved.”
While the systems in place aim to assist perpetrators and offenders, Ms Mossop said changes need to be made to these systems to better assist the parties.
“A better system would be one with support services actually running their programs at court – if persons are at court to attend about domestic violence, then that could extend to engagement in services with the aim of addressing what is needed immediately after their court appearance,” she said.
“Unfortunately most respondent programs offered in this region are not easily or readily accessible. There would probably be more suggestions if time, space and unlimited finances permitted.”
The ratio of female to male victims involved in domestic violence related homicides is 19 to nine, but homicides and permanent damage need to be stopped with preventive measures in the early stages – a challenge those in the justice system are still facing.
“Prevention should be a focus – catching the issues at the front door as opposed to the back,” Ms Mossop said.
“There needs to be a balance of the pendulum in the system between alleged aggrieved and perpetrators for justice to be properly administered with each case being considered as an individual case.”
Ending domestic violence does not begin with jailing offenders. It begins years before an offence is ever committed.
“Prevention of damaged people has to start at home with children being brought up with love and reasonable discipline – consequences for wrongful acts issued within the boundaries of love,” Ms Mossop said.
“Personally it is my view that our society has become selfish, self-centred with little regard to actions being coupled with consequences.”