MOTHERS are faking domestic violence to secure custody of their children, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.
The claim, made to an inquiry into the fraught subject of child support, has been labelled dangerously misleading.
Statistics show one woman is killed by her partner every week, and that between one in four and one in three has experienced domestic violence. There is no evidence that women commonly lie about domestic violence.
But the Lone Fathers Association (Australia) has written to the inquiry, arguing that controversial changes to laws made in 2011 have “had the effect of encouraging divorcing parents to make false or exaggerated accusations of domestic violence against their ex partners with a view to reducing or eliminating custody and access”.
They say that has in turn led to parents committing suicides. The Australian Men’s Health Forum also argue in a submission that the child support system and a lack of help for men has led to suicides and murders of partners and children.
However, critics of their position say the problem with domestic violence is that it is under-reported, not over-reported.
LFAA President Barry Williams lashed out at the 2011 reforms which expanded domestic violence to include stalking, threats, intimidation, hurting pets or financially controlling partners.
“(The) definition of domestic violence now provides a strong incentive to lie in order to obtain an advantage in divorce settlements,” he wrote.
“The 2011 family violence legislation is one of the most destructive pieces of legislation passed in recent times. It is very one-sided and has caused some good innocent men to feel there was no help for them, that the system had failed them, and that all they had left was to take their own life to ease their pain.
“Under the 2011 legislation one only has to be accused of domestic violence and one is guilty. Not innocent until proven guilty, but guilty on accusation, in many cases lies, and even when the accused after a year or more is found to be innocent of the accusation there is no punishment imposed on the person making the false accusation.”
Therese Edwards, the CEO of the Adelaide-based National Council on Single Mothers and Their Children, will give evidence to the inquiry on Thursday.
She said claiming women lied about domestic violence was “dangerous” and trivialised a serious problem.
“The one thing the statistics show is that domestic violence is under reported, under disclosed,” she said.
“There is a great reluctance for women to report domestic violence because in some states the mum could be found negligent (if courts think she has allowed children to be exposed to violence).
“It’s really clear that it’s under-reported. (and) it does a disservice when men’s groups say the opposite.”
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