A domestic violence victim who endured 14 years of abuse is fighting for compensation.
A domestic violence victim who endured 14 years of abuse is fighting for compensation. Lee Constable

Domestic violence compensation shake-up on the cards

THE Queensland Government is considering a shake-up of the state's crime victim compensation scheme so survivors of domestic violence have fairer access to financial support.

ARM Newsdesk can also confirm that Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath is looking into the circumstances surrounding a public servant's "insensitive" response to a 42-year-old Mackay intimate partner abuse victim whose claim for compensation is set to be knocked back because of flaws that exist in the current scheme that is administered by Victim Assist Queensland.

Ms D'Ath's office said the Palaszczuk Government was likely to introduce a bill to Parliament early next year that would redefine the Victims of Crime Assistance Act to ensure victims and survivors of family violence have a better chance of receiving compensation than they currently do.

The move follows ARM Newsdesk's expose last week of a letter sent by a VAQ assessor that "re-victimised" survivor Mary who endured years of extreme physical and sexual violence at the hands of her former partner.

Mary's application for compensation appeared to hit a  wall because she was unable to provide "sufficient evidence that any specific acts of violence occurred".

This was despite submitting a police document verifying she had been abused, a medical certificate, psychologist's report, Family Court paperwork, copies of her DVO, witness statements and photos of some of the injuries she suffered when she was raped, bashed and choked during the 14 years she spent with her for her former partner.

"It feels like they're not believing me," Mary told ARM Newsdesk.

"I'm not being believed and I've spent all that time of my life trying to survive and trying to protect my children.

"Now I'm still having to justify to people that it happened."

A spokesman for Ms D'Ath told ARM Newsdesk late on Friday that the State Government was looking at redefining the act.

"The Attorney-General has requested a brief from her department on the specifics of this case after she became aware of the matter," he said.

"More broadly, the Palaszczuk Government has reviewed the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 and has accepted recommendations from the review to expand the definition of an act of violence to include an act of domestic and family violence as defined under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012.

"This will assist victims of domestic family violence who may be victim of financial or emotional abuse rather than an offence against their person."

Two leading experts on domestic violence told ARM Newsdesk that Victim Assist Queensland's assessment of compensation claims for domestic and family abuse was flawed because it did not take into account the particular "control" dynamics of abusive relationships.

The scheme requires victims to supply specific medical or police evidence of specific injuries sustained during abuse.

Often, victims will not disclose how they came to be injured because the abuser may threatened to kill them if they do.

Victims will also keep quiet for fear of Child Safety Services taking their children because the children were exposed to trauma.

Domestic violence legal specialist Kara Cook said Mary's case was not "uncommon".

"The need for corroboration (of evidence) is particularly limiting when it does not take into account the dynamics of violence and that the violence is often unreported," the Cook Legal principal lawyer said.  

Dr Deborah Walsh said the scheme needed to be adjusted to reflect the dynamics of abusive relationships.

"We know that disclosure to a professional and or leaving a domestic violence situation is the most dangerous time ever for women," the University of Queensland School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work academic said.

* For 24-hour support, phone Queensland's DVConnect on 1800 811 811 or MensLine on 1800 600 636, NSW's Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463 or the national hotline 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).



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