Should I call the cops?

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I’ve thought about calling the police but I’m scared to.

What will they do? Will calling them just make things worse?

A police station in Australia

Most people get nervous about calling the police. But if you are in danger, they are there to protect you. Police are used to dealing with violence in relationships or families.

If you need immediate help, call 000 and the police will come. Or you can go to a police station to report violence.

NOTE: The following information applies to police in Victoria, Australia. Police may do things differently in other states and territories.

The police and dating violence

Victoria Police guidelines say they have to take any form of family violence seriously – this includes violence from a boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner – including a same-sex partner.

Their first priority is to make sure that everyone is safe.

There are also some things they can do to try to stop your boyfriend or girlfriend from hurting you again.

When a Police Officer visits you at home

When police arrive (they will usually knock, but can use force to enter a house if necessary), they should find out what happened, assess your safety (and the safety of your children if you have any) and also find out whether any criminal offences have been committed.

According to Victoria Police guidelines, these are some of the things they should do:

  • Where possible, they will talk separately to you, your BF/GF/partner, and any other witnesses.
  • They will ask you about what happened, whether your BF/GF/partner has been violent before, if he/she has any weapons, and if you are scared they will hurt you again.
  • If you or anyone else is injured they will call an ambulance.
  • They will take notes about what happened, and collect any evidence of criminal offences.
  • They may remove your BF/GF/partner from the premises, or if necessary, they may help you find somewhere safe to stay.

If you are worried that your BF/GF/partner will punish you for calling them, you can tell the police this.

Police can take action to help stop your BF/GF/partner from hurting you again. Whatever action police take, they should talk to you about it and explain it to you.

What happens later?

For your immediate protection

If the police think you are in immediate danger, they can issue a Family Violence Safety Notice. That’s a notice that might say that the violent person is not allowed to hurt you or come near you. These notices last for a maximum of 72 hours.

Then a magistrate at a Magistrates court will decide whether you need ongoing protection from the violent person. The magistrate may make an “Intervention Order “, which prevents the violent partner from coming near you (see below).

A ‘court order’ to protect you

If police think there is a risk you could be harmed again, they can take out, or help you to take out, an Intervention Order.

This is a court order which has conditions on it – for example, it might say that your BF/GF/partner is not allowed to hurt you again, or is not allowed to come near you or contact you. Your BF/GF/partner has to obey the conditions of the order – if he/she disobeys the order, then he/she can be charged with a criminal offence.

A magistrate will decide if you can get an Intervention Order. You may have to go to court and tell the magistrate what happened and why the Intervention Order is needed. You can also apply for an Intervention Order yourself, at a Magistrates Court www.magistratescourt.vic.gov.au.

Weapons

If your BF/GF/partner has any firearms or weapons, the police can take them off him.

Arrest and criminal charges

If there is enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed, the police could arrest and charge your BF/GF/partner. If this happens, he/she could be held in custody or on remand for a period of time, or released on bail on condition not to contact you or come near you.

They will collect any evidence that shows that the crime was committed – they might take photos of injuries or damage to property, or take a record of any documents or phone messages left.

They will ask you, and any witnesses (people who heard or saw what happened, or who you spoke to about it) to make a statement about what happened which they will type up. If your BF/GF/partner is charged, you may need to go to court to tell a Magistrate what happened.

Call your local police station to talk about family violence

If you can, you could ring your local Police station and talk to them about how the police handle family violence. In an emergency, call 000.

My parents decided to call the police, even though I didn’t want them to. [My boyfriend] took off when he saw the police car on the road, so the police didn’t see him. The policewoman was quite nice actually, and said we could get an Intervention Order to stop him coming near the house, or near me at school. They said I would need to go to a Magistrates Court and say what had happened, and why I was afraid of him…

See Isabella’s story.

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Photo above from Flickr by raeallen / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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