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Call to MPs to amend or oppose Failure-to-protect Bill targeting women facing family violence

Update, 5 May 2014: The Victorian Labor Opposition has responded to our concerns about the risks of clause 4 of this Bill to women facing family violence and has stated its intention "to have clause 4 withdrawn, delayed or deleted". The response states that clause 4 "may cause more harm to children suffering physical or sexual abuse, and is potentially dangerous for women experiencing family violence".
 
 
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The Federation and ten family violence and sexual assault advocacy organisations have issued an urgent letter to women Coalition MPs and Frankston independent, Geoff Shaw MP, calling on them to amend or oppose Clause 4 of the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Children) Bill 2014, which is set to go before the Legislative Assembly of the Parliament of Victoria next week.
 
In its current form, the Bill risks criminalising women facing family violence who fail to disclose child abuse due to fears for their safety. Advocates argue that a claimed defence within the Bill is inadequate to recognise the impact of family violence on women's capacity to safely disclose, and similar laws in other countries have been used almost exclusively against women who are themselves victims. 
 
"Clause 4 is a quick fix, window dressing 'solution' that will not achieve real protection and healing for victims of child sexual abuse," says Dr Chris Atmore, Senior Policy Adviser.
 
"What Victoria really needs is more resources and training so that non-abusing parents and other people can be supported to safely disclose to police, confident that the child will then receive justice and help."
 
The letters to MPs argue that the "reasonableness" of non-disclosure of abuse "is likely to be interpreted in a way that imposes unrealistic or unsafe expectations" on women facing family violence.
 
The Bill exceeds the scope of the report of the Cummins Inquiry on child protection, which recommended that laws be restricted to persons of authority within institutions (rec. 47), and the terms of reference of the Betrayal of Trust report.
 
Advocates have proposed that MPs support specific amendments, or oppose the Bill in its current form.
The signatories to the letters are the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, Domestic Violence Victoria, Aboriginal Family Violence & Prevention Legal service, Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service, inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, Women's Legal Service Victoria, No To Violence, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Victorian Women's Trust, CASA Forum (Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault Inc.).
 
For media inquiries, please contact Darren Lewin-Hill on 0488 773 535.

 

 

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