TAKING ACTION AGAINST VIOLENCE
Violence includes threats, intimidation, being physically attacked, or having your property attacked.
Violent behaviour is unlawful and you can take action, no matter who it's coming from. Whether it's 'gay bashing', sexual assault, domestic violence or vandalism, it's an offence and you can report it to the police.
Many lesbian, gay and transgender victims of violence do not report it to the police. The Victorian police have Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers throughout the state who you can contact if you do not want to go to your local police.
The Victorian police now keep statistics of homophobic violence and harassment. You may be able to take civil action against the perpetrator for damages. Get legal advice first.
See: 'Taking action'
If the police have been violent towards you, you can make a formal complaint.
Help for victims of violence
Victims can get free counselling through the Victims Support Agency (VSA). VSA can also advise you about other help. A person who has been injured from a crime can also get financial help from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal for medical and counselling expenses and loss of earnings. People who have witnessed a crime and partners of people who die as a result of a crime can also get help.
OFFENCES INVOLVING VIOLENCE
Common assault and other offences
Under common law, 'assault' is any action which is meant to make you fear immediate violence. Assault includes physical attack ('battery'), physical intimidation, and in some cases verbal threats.
There are also many offences under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and other Acts relating to violent behaviour - including personal injury, property damage, threats to seriously injure or kill someone, or to damage or destroy property.
Verbal abuse (vilification) which does not cause a fear of violence is not an assault. However, you may be abused about your sexual orientation or gender identity as you are being discriminated against (for instance, if someone is refusing you service). This abuse may also equal discrimination, which you can take action against (see: 'Discrimination').
Violence within relationships
The words 'family violence' or 'domestic violence' describe any physical violence, threats, abuse, or emotional and psychological intimidation directed towards anyone by their partner or any member of their family.
This includes your same-sex partner or any person you have had an intimate relationship with - you don't have to be living with them.
You can protect yourself from family violence by applying at your local Magistrates' Court for an Intervention Order under the Crimes (Family Violence) Act 1987 (Vic). You can get legal and other help to apply.
See: 'Where to get help'
You can also report the violence to the police. The police can apply for an intervention order for you. They may also charge the person with a criminal offence.
For more information about applying for and responding to intervention orders, contact Victoria Legal Aid on 9269 0223 for a free booklet, or download it from www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
Where to get help:
Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service (24 hours)
Tel 9373 0123 or 1800 015 188 (country callers)
'Stalking' includes repeatedly following someone, telephoning them or sending messages (including by SMS or e-mail), loitering near their house or workplace, watching someone and any other repeated behaviour that makes someone fear for their safety.
If you are being stalked, you can call the police. You can also apply for an intervention order.
Rape and indecent assault (sexual assaults)
Indecent assault is when a person assaults another person in indecent circumstances, knowing that the other person might not be consenting. This covers sexual acts which don't involve penetration, such as touching breasts or buttocks without consent. (For meaning of consent, see 'Having sex')
Rape is an act of sexual penetration without consent. Sexual penetration includes penetration of a person's mouth, anus or vagina by another person's penis; and of anus or vagina by another person using an object or another part of the body. It is also rape when one person forces another to penetrate them.
It is also a sexual offence if a person gives or causes another person to take a drug, matter or thing with the intention of rendering the person incapable of resistance to an act of sexual penetration.
Reported sexual assaults or rapes are usually referred to special police units with expertise in this area. However, there are procedures all police must follow which are designed to support and protect the victim and their rights.
For many sexual assault victims, reporting the crime to the police is a difficult decision to make. There is no time limit on reporting these crimes, although reporting immediately may help police to collect necessary evidence.
If you would like to take action against homophobic violence, contact:
Anti-Violence Project of Victoria (AVP)
c/- 6 Claremont Street
South Yarra 3141
Centres against Sexual Assault (CASA)
If you have been sexually assaulted, you can get help from a Centre against Sexual Assault. CASA services include counselling and support; information and referral; and advocacy. CASA counsellors can help you decide whether to report the assault to police.
Some CASAs have men as well as women working as counsellors. If your local CASA does not, and you wish to see a male counsellor, you can ask to be referred to another centre.
Contact your local CASA (listed under Centre for Sexual Assault in the White Pages)
Tel CASA House on 9344 2210 or 1800 806 292
A booklet about sexual assault and the law is available from Victoria Legal Aid. Call 9269 0223 for a free copy or download it from www.legalaid.vic.gov.au