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Criminal Law Consolidation (Defences - Domestic Abuse Context) Amendment Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading

(Continued from 18 October 2017)

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (22:19): I understand this bill will create a new defence for individuals who have been victims of family or domestic violence. The bill is based on a recommendation from the South Australian Law Reform Institute and will enable those who have been victims of family or domestic violence, who commit an offence as a result of their victimisation, to use this as a defence against their crime.

Domestic violence is a scourge on our society, and whilst I am glad there is more awareness of the matter, it is clear that much more needs to be done. Many people do not understand domestic violence and often wonder why the victim does not leave. Physical violence is much easier to understand and empathise with; however, it is often emotional and psychological manipulation that weighs heaviest on a victim. Everyone knows that it is unacceptable to hit or beat someone, but when the abuse is silent and has no physical evidence, there may be doubts that it is occurring, even from the victim themselves. This is why I am pleased that the Hon. Mark Parnell's bill specifically includes psychological, social, cultural and economic factors in determining domestic abuse.

The bill also makes it clear that a person is still able to rely on the defence even if a person is responding to a threat that is not imminent and that the cumulative effect of the abuse is to be taken into consideration as evidence of abuse. This is very important because I know there are situations where it may seem that a person suddenly snaps for no apparent reason or reacts in a disproportionate manner to a seemingly innocent event. In these situations, a person may be painted out to be unreasonable or as having gone crazy. However, if a person is continually in a pressure cooker situation, it is absolutely understandable that they might suddenly respond or behave in a manner that might not seem rational. This is often simply frustration, fear and anger manifesting itself in a physical form.

Domestic violence victims may not always present as you would expect. They may seem intelligent and together on the outside but inside be filled with self-doubt. In my view, it is up to the community to support those who have the courage to speak out about their experiences and assist perpetrators to acknowledge the damage they have caused. That way, perpetrators can get help and be educated on what is a healthy, respectful relationship. Unfortunately, there are some perpetrators who see nothing wrong with their behaviour. This is disturbing. Even more disturbing is when bystanders choose to do nothing by turning a blind eye or, even worse, support the perpetrator.

People who commit these types of offences are often master manipulators. I have encountered situations where a perpetrator has managed to turn a family against the victim. This is why organisations such as the White Ribbon Foundation are so important, as they continue to educate and raise public awareness about the issue. As they say: stand up, speak out and act to stop domestic violence and abuse. Advance SA is very happy to support this bill and congratulates the Greens and the Hon. Mark Parnell on bringing this to the parliament.