About Dr Karen Williams

Dr Karen Williams is a consultant psychiatrist who treats patients whom have suffered complex trauma and other kinds of trauma. The deficit of services targeted for this population has led to her founding Doctors Against Violence Towards Women. The primary aim of this group is to advocate for increased public and professional awareness of trauma informed care.

Hanson’s family court inquiry will just put women and children in danger

According to Pauline Hanson, the family court is tainted by the lies of women. Having treated the abused, I know the opposite to be true.

 

 

It took Kathryn over a year to charge her husband with assault after he strangled her. The deep bruises around her neck and the screams heard by eyewitnesses were ‘good evidence’ according to the police who handled her case. He was later given a sentence of just three months. The day after he was released from jail, he knocked on her door. She opened it, and he punched her in the face. Her two daughters stood terrified behind her. “Next time, I will kill you…and them,” he said.

Kathryn has learnt her lesson. She won’t go to the police again, nor will she return to the family court. “The lawyer said that since he is not violent with the girls, he will get probably at least get supervised access. And that after a period of time, it will be unsupervised…and that’s when I know he will follow through with his promise to kill them…I know he will,” she said.

Kathryn continues to live with him, trapped with absolutely nowhere to run.

***

As doctors, we hear these stories. We tend the wounds, we treat the trauma. We know all too well that their fears are based in reality. We watch abused women have their children torn from them, and later held responsible for ‘allowing’ abusive men near them.

The statistics on domestic violence are quoted, over and over again:

  • 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence.
  • Every four hours a woman is hospitalised as a result of domestic violence.
  • Every week, one or two women are killed by their partner. 43% of these women are in the process of trying to leave them.
  • Every week a woman is murdered.

Over the past twenty years, there have been a number of inquiries into the Family Law court. Each time, the recommendations carry the same message: the court needs to prioritise the safety of mothers and their children.

However, most of these recommendations remain unaddressed.

The Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into the Family Court was released in April. Their findings indicate that up to 70% of children have been exposed to family violence, and nearly one-in-five report that they have safety concerns for themselves and/or their children as a result of ongoing contact with the other parent.

Most people believe women in violent relationships should leave. Most people believe violence is unacceptable. Yet, when a woman tries to do this in a legal manner, she is accused of lying or manipulating.

Pauline Hanson says that many women lie about violence, yet 70% of women don’t tell anyone at all after a violent episode.

 

 

Our society has made escape impossible. If she stays, she is putting herself and her children in danger. If she wants to leave, she will be accused of lying.

It seems Pauline Hanson and Kevin Andrews are pushing for an additional inquiry into the family court for political and personal motives. It is difficult to understand the rationale of a new inquiry before recommendations of the previous ones have yet to be implemented.

Pauline Hanson thinks men are treated unfairly by the judicial system, yet even when women do report their abuse, only 28% of abusers are charged. And of those abusers, only 89% will go to court. Even when those cases go to court, only about 11% will be found guilty (NSW Parliamentary Research Service, 2018).

According to BOSCAR, of the men that are found guilty, only 14% go to jail, and more than 95% will be released early.

Statistically, there is absolutely no evidence that the court favours women in the judicial system. It is wrong, misleading and dangerous to say otherwise.

There is not enough housing for victims of violence, most cannot afford legal representation, and there is minimal funding for meaningful psychological support for victims of trauma. Therefore, it is inconceivable to consider asking the public to fund yet another inquiry.

 

 

 

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