Family Violence & Cyber Stalking – What you need to know

There are three different Acts that need to be considered in relation to family violence and cyber stalking.

The Family Law Act defines family violence as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member) or causes the family member to be fearful”.

The Family Violence Protection Act defines family violence as:
(a) behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person if that behavior:
    (i) is physically or sexually abusive; or
    (ii) is emotionally or psychologically abusive; or
    (iii) is economically abusive; or
    (iv) is threatening; or
    (v) is coercive; or
    (vi) in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person; or
(b) behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects, of behaviour referred to in paragraph (a).

Some examples of family violence include but are not limited to assault, sexual assault, property damage, causing or threatening to harm an animal and preventing a family member from maintaining connections with family or friends.

Examples of a child being exposed to family violence include overhearing threats of physical abuse or verbal abuse, witnessing an assault, comforting and providing assistance to a family member who has been abused, cleaning up property damage and being present when police attend an incident.

Stalking is also recognised as a form of family violence. The Crimes Act 1958 defines stalking as “following the victim, contacting the victim, entering or loitering outside their home or workplace, interfering with the victim’s property, offensive or abusive acts and keeping the victim under surveillance”.

This may extend to cyber stalking which has become increasingly prevalent with the development of social media and smart phones. Cyber stalking includes:

  • Contacting the victim by email or other electronic means;
  • Tracking the victim’s internet use;
  • Hacking into the victim’s email or social media accounts;
  • Impersonating the victim online;
  • Publishing on the internet or social media comments, photos, videos or rumours about the victim; and/or
  • Creating a fake account to communicate with the victim.
If you believe that you, or someone you know, may be the victim of family violence or cyber stalking there are some things that you should consider:
1.     Remove your former partner as a Facebook friend and delete your connection on any other social media platforms;
2.     Change your social media settings to private so that only friends can access your posts;
3.     Change your passwords to your email and social media accounts and keep these confidential;
4.     Always sign out of your email and social media accounts and ‘uncheck’ the box “remember me on this computer”;
5.     Turn off location services on your phone;
6.     Set a password or pin to unlock your phone;
7.     Retain copies of any abusive or threatening texts, emails or posts;
8.     Screenshot any inappropriate social media posts which could later be taken down;
9.     You may wish to have legal correspondence sent to a new or separate email address; and
10.  Obtain legal advice.
All forms of family violence should be taken seriously and it may be necessary to consider an application for an Intervention Order or an application in the Family Courts, if appropriate. We would be pleased to discuss your options with you further.