04 Jun

Until recently, I have seldom shared with people that my motivation to study law was actually borne of a desire to understand society on a deeper level and decipher fact from fiction in a world made up of shades of grey. Admittedly, initially, I thought I wanted to practice however, after completing the first year of my degree, I realised that being surrounded by disputes where the key objective was to fight and undermine an opposing party was not something my nature or character was well suited to. It was also very clear to me early on that legal processes do not necessarily lead to justice. I persisted with my degree regardless because I have a lot of respect for the way in which laws and regulations are crafted by judges, lawyers and politicians and have tremendous capacity to completely transform society. It is truly fascinating when you stop to consider that legal disputes, the Parliament and courts ultimately deliberate complex problems with a view to defining what should and should not be tolerated. The legal system is a good means through which you can build and calibrate your moral compass. It also provides helpful insights as to what should be perceived as an exceptional circumstance or situations where lenience should be applied. To this end, I find my legal studies helpful in day-to-day life and use them as a starting point to analyse the complex problems of people who seek out my services as a holistic therapist. 

A theme I have noticed coming up a lot recently, not only in the lives of people with whom I interact, but the media at large, is what actually constitutes abuse as compared to someone being oversensitive? The Megan Markle and Prince Harry vs the royal family saga has society segregated on this very topic. I believe it is a complex problem because emotions and concealed motives can indeed influence the way both parties to a dispute present their arguments. It is helpful to look to legal definitions within various Acts and case law to decipher where to draw the line. 

Below I have listed some content from a legal handbook[1] that offers some helpful and relevant insights that will enable you to properly evaluate whether someone is being overly dramatic and sensitive or calling out an abusive situation: 

Non-domestic abuse intervention orders 

The Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA) recognises that abuse can take many forms including emotional, psychological and economic and is not limited to physical or sexual abuse [s 8(1)]. In order for an intervention order to be issued there must be a reasonable suspicion that the respondent will commit an act of abuse against the victim. An act of abuse is defined as an act resulting in [s 8(2)]: 

 Indirect abuse 

Section 8(6) of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA) states: "If a defendant [respondent] commits an act of abuse against a person, or threatens to do so, in order to cause emotional or psychological harm to another person or to deny another person financial, social or personal autonomy, the defendant [respondent] commits an act of abuse against that other person." For example, if a respondent threatens to harm someone close to the applicant and this causes the applicant distress, the respondent has committed an act of abuse against the applicant. Similarly, a respondent commits an act of abuse if they [s 8(7)]: 

Emotional or psychological harm 

Emotional or psychological harm includes mental illness, nervous shock, and distress, anxiety or fear that is more than trivial [s 8(3)]. Examples of such harm include [s 8(4)]: 

Unreasonable and non-consensual denial of financial, social or personal autonomy 

Examples of unreasonable and non-consensual denial of financial, social or personal autonomy include [s 8(5)]: 

The distinction between domestic and non-domestic abuse

The Act covers both domestic and non-domestic abuse [ss 8(8) and 8(9)]. There are two main distinctions between the two types of abuse. In domestic abuse cases, all proceedings must be dealt with as a matter of priority, as far as practicable [s 9]. The Uniform Special Statutory Rules 2022 (SA) also ensure that any adjournments are kept to a minimum in domestic abuse cases [r 86.2(5)]. Domestic abuse is where an act of abuse is committed by the respondent against a person with whom they are or were in a relationship [s 8(8)]. For the purposes of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA), two people are in a relationship if: 

For details about what constitutes non-domestic abuse and the considerations taken into account in hearing a non-domestic abuse intervention order application see Non-domestic abuse intervention orders. 

Non-domestic abuse intervention orders 

Under section 8(9) of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA) non-domestic abuse is defined as an act of abuse committed by a respondent against a person with whom the respondent is not, and was not previously, in a relationship. Notably the definition includes circumstances in which a respondent imagines a relationship exists. Where the application is not made by the police, the court must consider the following [s 21(4)]: 

 If you have a complex problem you are dealing with and want some help evaluating whether you are being oversensitive or abused, feel free to reach out and book in for a one-to-one session so I can help you sort through the facts and your emotions 

   [1] What is abuse? (lawhandbook.sa.gov.au)

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