Economic crisis fuels family violence

DOMESTIC violence rates will continue to soar in the Hunter as the global financial crisis increases pressure on families, family lawyers predict.The number of court-issued domestic apprehended violence orders has increased in the past three years and experts believe added job stress and rising costs as the economy weakens will only fuel the problem.Police figures obtained from the Bureau of Crime Statistics by The Herald show an alarming rise in the number of domestic AVOs issued across the Hunter since 2005.While complete figures for 2008 are still unavailable, figures issued last week show that 2372 AVOs were issued across the Hunter last year, far higher than all other regional centres.AVOs are court-issued protection orders used to gain legal protection from physical, sexual and psychological violence as well as stalking.In 2007, 600 AVOs were issued in Newcastle, up from 490 in 2006. Port Stephens recorded a similar increase with 311 issued, up from 231.There were 389 AVOs issued in 2007 in Maitland, up by 80.Statewide AVOs have increased by more than 7 per cent since 2005. In NSW, 19,765 were issued in 2008.Laws firms dealing with family law cases involving domestic violence say the situation will continue to worsen as Australians deal with the full effect of the world economic crisis.They said increased lay-offs, shrinking employment opportunities and rising costs had put more stress on already volatile home lives.The Family Law Firm's Jenny Coylesaid her firm had experienced a jump in family law cases since the economy slowed last year."It's a snowball effect because people find themselves under so much stress their job goes and cracks start to show in their family, then domestic violence problems can start to occur," she said."The family law business is possibly the only form of law that has prospered during the economic credit crush, which is not a particularly good thing."Other lawyers agree that domestic violence is the only line of work on the rise, courtesy of the credit crunch, for all the wrong reasons."The Hunter, Lower Hunter especially, does have a high level of domestic violence coming through the court system," Hunter Valley Legal's Ben Huston said."That's a load on the system but in most cases unless there is a serious domestic violence issue, magistrates are mindful of not dragging it all the way to a hearing and look at the options."A community development and eduction worker at women's refuge Carrie's Place, Jan McDonald, said tough times were not excuses for domestic violence."The economy, jobs and money are all factors that can affect the family unit, but people need to know that domestic violence is a choice," she said.

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