Knowledge and Resource Hub
01 July 2019

Transforming legal understandings of intimate partner violence

The report examined the theories of intimate partner violence (IPV) that are typically relied on by legal professionals when women are charged with homicide of their abusive partner and compared them with established theories of IPV, including intimate partner sexual violence. Despite all Australian jurisdictions recognising self-defence, whether or not they were defending themselves from an imminent physical threat at the time of a killing,  cases in which battered women kill their abusive partners were able to raise self-defence successfully are still uncommon in practice. The law reforms that have occurred  require complex reflection about the reality of violence inflicted and threatened in IPV if a battered woman’s claim of self-defence is to be justly assessed. The authors suggested that currently, the legal system use outmoded theories of violence which automatically render the defendant’s use of defensive force unreasonable. Such theoretical frameworks preclude a proper consideration of the defendant’s self-defence case on the facts and undercut the legislative reforms that have taken place. Four recommendations were made to address the identified issues.