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  • The Advertiser

Domestic violence crimes, breaches of court orders rising in SA

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Appearing in The Advertiser (4th December 2023)

Author: Lauren Novak

Abusive partners and parents are ignoring court orders meant to protect their victims in record numbers, and police reports reveal domestic violence-related crimes are soaring.

However, those on the frontline say the official figures are just the “tip of the iceberg” as too many victims do not feel safe to report offences or seek support.

It comes after the bodies of four South Australian women were discovered in one week last month, and none appear to have been on the radar of women’s safety services.

The Advertiser can reveal authorities laid 2940 charges last financial year against people who ignored conditions of an intervention order – a surge of more than 850 on the previous year.

It is the highest number of breaches in one year since records were published in 2015.

Police and the courts can impose intervention orders to prevent people from contacting a victim, such as their ex-partner or child, or going to their home or workplace.

Police data shows officers are also responding to more domestic-violence related crimes, recording 15,045 offences in the year to September.

That was up from 12,821 in the 12 months to September 2021.

They include assault, sexual assault, property damage, blackmail and threatening behaviour.

Women’s safety services argue the alarming figures bolster their calls for a royal commission into domestic violence in SA.

“If four women can die in a week, and the data tells us that things are getting worse not better, what more needs to happen before the government takes this seriously?” Zahra Foundation Australia chief executive officer Kelly-Ann Tansley said.

“This data demonstrates in stark numbers that women are not safe in South Australia and are becoming less safe over time. We need a royal commission to get to the bottom of this.”

The Opposition, Greens and Embolden alliance of 18 organisations back the call.

Embolden general manager Mary Leaker, Uniting Communities chief executive Simon Schrapel and Flinders University domestic violence expert Sarah Wendt all described the latest data as the “tip of the iceberg”.

“When we look at most of the women slain in SA this year, they were not known to services, they were under the radar,” Professor Wendt said.

Ms Leaker said many women experiencing abuse “and a significant proportion of women killed are not in contact with police or specialist services”.

Breaches of intervention orders were a warning sign of “an escalation of a perpetrator’s controlling behaviour”, she said, and must be “rigorously enforced and … recognised as significant red flags.”

OARS Community Transitions chief executive Leigh Garrett, who works with abusive men, added: “On many occasions fatal violence is the end point, without any prior reports of nonlethal violence”.

Premier Peter Malinauskas has not ruled out a royal commission but has first asked his department to examine the findings of one held in Victoria in 2015 to see what SA could do “sooner rather than later”.

He also questioned “whether or not whatever we invest into a royal commission could be better spent in the sector itself”.

The SA government recently funded royal commissions into early childhood education ($2.45m), the River Murray (at least $5m) and the child protection system (about $9m) but women’s safety advocates argue investing these amounts would not be enough.

Following the child protection royal commission the government committed $500m-plus.

The Victorian government committed $3.7bn following its inquiry.

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