Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVROs) – Common Misconceptions

by | Sep 2, 2023

Introduction: The Importance of Understanding Family Violence Restraining Orders

Understanding Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVROs) can be the first step towards seeking protection and justice. Family violence is a grave concern that impacts numerous families across West Australia and beyond. For women in violent living situations, knowledge is a crucial weapon. This article by the Genuine Legal WA team aims to address common misconceptions surrounding FVROs. By dispelling these myths, we hope to empower readers with accurate information, enabling them to make informed decisions for their safety and well-being.

What Are Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVROs)?

A Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) is a specialized legal injunction, prevalent in West Australia, that serves as a protective mechanism for those facing threats or acts of violence from family members. These orders are born out of the recognition that family violence is a unique and deeply personal violation of safety and well-being.

Not just limited to immediate physical danger, the scope of an FVRO covers various types of abuse, including emotional, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse. When granted, this order can specify a range of conditions based on the victim’s needs and the nature of the threat. Some common stipulations include:

  • Prohibiting Contact: The offender may be forbidden from making any form of contact with the victim, be it in person, via phone, text, email, or through third parties.
  • Setting Boundaries: The offender may be barred from entering or approaching certain locations critical to the victim’s safety, such as their residence, place of work, or even the educational institution of a child involved.
  • Mandated Counselling or Programs: In some cases, the court may deem it beneficial for the offender to undergo counselling or attend specific programs that address violent behaviour.
  • Protection for Children: If children are involved or at risk, the order can extend its protection to them, ensuring they too are shielded from potential harm or trauma.

You can apply for an FVRO against someone if you are, or have been, in a family relationship with the respondent. The definition of a family relationship, according to the Magistrates Court of Western Australia,  is a relationship between two people who are, or were, one of the following:

  • Married
  • De-facto relationships
  • Related (e.g. siblings, children, parents, grandparents and step-family relationships)
  • Who have, or have had an intimate or other personal relationship with each other
  • The former spouse or former de facto partner of the other person’s current spouse or current de facto partner.

How long does an FVRO last?

An FVRO remains in force for the period stated in the order or, if no duration is specified, for two years from when it came into force.

The Purpose and Role of Family Violence Restraining Orders

FVROs act as a protective shield, offering immediate relief from the threat of harm. Their primary role is to deter further abuse and ensure the safety of the victim. While the order doesn’t guarantee an end to all forms of violence, it offers a layer of legal protection. Violation of these orders may result in serious legal consequences for the offender, discouraging further aggression.

Misconception #1: Restraining Orders Immediately Resolve All Issues

Some may believe that once a restraining order is in place, all threats and problems cease. While it’s an essential step towards safety, obtaining an FVRO doesn’t automatically stop an abuser’s intent or actions.

The Truth About the Limits of Restraining Orders

An FVRO provides a legal boundary, but it’s essential to remain cautious and vigilant. In some instances, an abuser might challenge or even breach the order. It’s crucial to have a comprehensive safety plan, which might include staying with trusted friends or family, changing routines, or seeking shelter services. Reporting any violations is vital to ensuring the restraining order remains an effective deterrent.

Misconception #2: It’s Easy to Obtain a Restraining Order

Many assume that obtaining an FVRO is a straightforward process. However, like many legal proceedings, it requires evidence, documentation, and sometimes even court appearances. If you need help submitting a FVRO, contact our team.

The Reality of the Application Process for Restraining Orders

While the legal system aims to protect victims, the process requires them to provide evidence of the abuse or threats they’ve faced. This might include photos, messages, or witness testimonies. It’s also essential to understand that each case is unique, and while some might be granted an order swiftly, others may face challenges. Seeking advice and representation from professionals, like those at Genuine Legal WA, can significantly aid in navigating this process.

Misconception #3: Only Physical Violence Warrants a Restraining Order

One of the most damaging myths is that only physical abuse justifies seeking an FVRO. This narrow viewpoint undermines the myriad ways abuse can manifest.

Expanding Understanding: Emotional Abuse and Harassment

Abuse is not limited to physical harm. Emotional abuse, intimidation, financial manipulation, and relentless harassment can be equally, if not more, traumatizing. Such behaviours can warrant an FVRO. Recognizing and acknowledging these non-physical forms of abuse is essential for victims to seek protection and healing.

Misconception #4: Family Violence Restraining Orders are Only for Women

Stereotypes can be misleading. While a significant percentage of those who seek FVROs are women, it’s essential to understand that men can also be victims of family violence.

The Reality: Men as Victims and the Universality of Restraining Orders

Family violence knows no gender. Men can and do become victims, and they too have the right to seek protection through FVROs. Recognizing this can help challenge stigmas and ensure that all victims, regardless of gender, feel validated and supported in their pursuit of safety.

Misconception #5: Restraining Orders Severely Limit the Respondent’s Rights

A prevalent misconception is that FVROs unduly infringe on the rights of the respondent, almost criminalizing them without a trial. In reality, the primary intent of these orders is not to punish the respondent but to ensure the safety and well-being of the victim. While there are restrictions placed on the respondent, they are designed as preventive measures based on evidence of potential harm and not as punitive actions.

Balancing Protection and Rights: The True Impact on the Respondent

While FVROs do impose limitations on the respondent, they are designed primarily to prevent further harm to the victim. The respondent’s rights are considered, but they are balanced against the victim’s right to safety. It’s crucial to understand that these orders are not about punishment but protection.

Misconception #6: Breaching a Restraining Order Holds No Serious Consequences

Some individuals downplay the severity of violating a restraining order, thinking it’s just a piece of paper. This misconception can be dangerous for both victims and offenders.

Understanding the Legal Consequences of Breaching a Restraining Order

Breaching an FVRO is a serious offence in West Australia. Violations can lead to substantial penalties, including fines and imprisonment. The legal system takes these breaches seriously, recognizing the potential harm that can be inflicted on the victim.

Dispelling Myths for a More Informed Understanding of Family Violence Restraining Orders

Knowledge is empowerment. By dispelling these myths, we hope to equip those in violent living situations, and those around them, with the accurate information they need. Understanding the true nature and potential of FVROs can be a pivotal step towards a safer future. For tailored advice and support, consider reaching out to the dedicated team at Genuine Legal WA.