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Family forum: Safety at risk

Knife threat is enough of a reason to flee home

QUESTION:

Our daughter, in her mid-30s, is in a relationship with a man who has had a very difficult life.

They met online a couple of years ago and live together in a home owned by my husband, her father, for which they pay individual rent in an arrangement with my husband. There is no tenancy agreement.

We now know that within several months of them cohabiting they were fighting, hysterical and out of control. Last weekend he threatened her with a knife and broke a door to the room she locked herself in.

My daughter asked us to get her partner out of her home next weekend (she has asked him to leave many times). She refuses DV counselling or police involvement.

How can we be proactive as parents without breaching her trust when she has asked us to do nothing but get him out of the house? Any advice? Thank you.

ANSWER:

The Panel considers that the most important concern raised by your letter is the fact your daughter’s safety is at significant risk. What you have described is a clear case of domestic and family violence. In 2018 alone at least 69 women were murdered by their partners or ex-partners in circumstances similar to your daughters. Many more were injured in some way.

Given the urgency of the situation and the fact her partner refuses to leave, the main priority is to assist her to get to a place of safety where he cannot find her. Research has shown that the time of greatest risk to the woman is after the initial separation. Once this has been achieved, she can apply for an Intervention (Restraining) Order. This would be a first step towards removing him from the property as the requirement to vacate could be a condition of the Order. The Police would then be able to act on this requirement.

The legal position in regard to the “arrangement” between her father and her partner still comes under the Residential Tenancies Act. The Act sets out a process for ending “periodic tenancies”. A notice period of either 60 or 90 days applies depending on circumstances. Your daughter’s request is therefore not possible if her partner does not agree to leave. If he still refuses to leave after this period of notice it will be necessary to seek an order for vacant possession from the SA Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This would require a hearing and will delay the process even further.

As you can see the only way to get him to vacate immediately is by the process of an Intervention Order, despite the fact that this may heighten further the risk to her safety.

The Panel strongly advises you to focus on the issue of safety despite your concern that she may see this as a “breach of trust”. Further support and advice for both you and your daughter is available from the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098 or the 1800 RESPECT website (1800respect.org.au). In an emergency dial triple-0 and speak to the SA Police service who can issue an immediate Interim Intervention Order on the spot.

The Panel wishes to emphasise that the need to take early action is paramount in these cases.

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Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

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Fill out the form below or send questions to Family Forum, The Advertiser, 31 Waymouth St, Adelaide 5000.

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