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Bill Bevan: Protecting children against domestic violence - 22 July


What can be done to protect children who witness domestic violence ?
When there is domestic violence that goes on in front of children they are also victims of the violence. A person psychologically abuses a child if that person causes or allows a child to see or hear the physical, sexual, or psychological abuse of a person with whom that child has a domestic relationship.

In the majority of cases of the victims of assault or abuse are woman - but not in all cases.
Where a women has children who witness that abuse, they can have protection orders taken out to protect them, even if their mother refuses to do this.

If a woman is scared to take action then she can contact Women's refuge, CAB, a community law centre or a family lawyer. All of these groups know how to get protection through the courts in the form of a protection order.

Q: How does this order protect the children?
Where the court makes a protection order, the order automatically protects any child of the applicant's family (i.e. a child under 17 who normally or regularly lives with the applicant) or if the order is given in favour of the children, it will protect them. There are standard conditions of every protection order - they include non-violence conditions and non-contact conditions.

Non-violence conditions apply to every case.
The respondent must not:
- Physically or sexually abuse the applicant or the applicant's children, or threaten to do so damage, or threaten to damage, property belonging to the applicant.
-  Psychologically abuse the applicant - including intimidation and harassment or threatening to do so 
-  Encourage any other person to physically, sexually or psychologically abuse the applicant or the applicant's children, or threaten to do so.

Non-contact conditions apply UNLESS the applicant expressly agrees to the respondent living in the same house or waives these conditions. The respondent must not:
- Watch, loiter near or prevent access to/from the applicant's house, workplace or any other place the applicant visits often
- Follow the applicant about or stop or accost the applicant in any place
enter or remain on any land or building occupied by the applicant without the applicant's express consent
- Make any contact with the applicant (including phone, fax, email, text and mail).

The non-contact conditions mean the respondent cannot contact the applicant UNLESS:
- This is reasonably necessary in an emergency or
- If permitted by a parenting order or written parenting agreement or
- It is permitted by a special condition of the protection order or
-The respondent is attending a family group conference convened under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989.

Q: What happens if the victim refuses to apply for a protection order?
Other persons can apply for a protection order as "representative" of children. Also under new rules that start today, a judge can make a protection order in favour of abused children, where their mother has been assaulted and is in need of protection, provided the the protected party does not object.

The advantage of this is that the children need not do anything before a judge can make an order, they just need not to object to the order.

Q: Where can people find out more about protection orders?
Womens Refuge, CAB's Community Law centres, Lawyers, Ministry of Justice.
"Self help" resources can also be downloaded from www.communitylaw.org.nz


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