Culturally Diverse Victim-Survivors of Family Violence Often Charged Falsely, According to New Paper 

8th February, 2022

A new paper released by inTouch has highlighted the concerning and ongoing issue of
misidentification in response to family violence occurring within migrant and refugee communities.
Misidentification, a key finding in Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, occurs when the
victim-survivor of family violence is incorrectly identified as the predominant aggressor by law
enforcement and the justice system. It is estimated to occur in every one in ten cases- and
significantly more when incidents take place in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence has been working with migrant and refugee
women who are experiencing family violence for over 37 years and have seen many cases of
misidentification occur throughout this time.

“Fortunately, after the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Family Violence,
misidentification is an issue that is slowly garnering more attention,” inTouch CEO, Michal Morris
said. “However, at least a third of our clients have reported being incorrectly identified as the
primary or predominant aggressor at some point in their journey through the justice system.”

“This can occur when law enforcement are responding to or investigating an incident and due to
language or cultural barriers, there is not a clear understanding of who is in need of protection. If
you add extreme emotional distress or physical self-defence to that situation, a police officer will
often misconstrue the situation and arrest the wrong person- the victim-survivor.”

As the inTouch position paper details, misidentification can have a number of far-reaching and
devastating consequences for victim-survivors. It can result in criminal charges, detrimental legal
outcomes, visa loss and a reduction in access to support services- some women will even lose
custody of their children. Police administration also cannot remove the status of perpetrator from a
woman’s record, even when it’s been proven that misidentification occurred.

Correcting instances of misidentification is a lengthy and resource-heavy process and often results
in a loss of trust in the law enforcement and justice systems, making it unlikely for women to
contact police for assistance should violence occur in the future.

inTouch’s paper makes a number of key recommendations, informed by the organisation’s extensive
experience working with migrant and refugee women experiencing family violence.
“In order to address family violence effectively, we must acknowledge that it occurs across every
community and culture,” Ms Morris said. “Furthermore, law enforcement and the justice system
must be equipped with the capacity and training to respond to family violence with culturally
appropriate procedure and practice.”

Issues covered in the paper include:

  • Why misidentification of the predominant aggressor occurs
  • Communities at high risk of misidentification
  • Different types of misidentification, and how this can be manipulated by a perpetrator of violence
    (including systems abuse)
  • Consequences of misidentification on the victim- survivor
  • Effect of COVID-19
  • Steps required to reduces instances of misidentification.

inTouch’s position paper, The Causes and Consequences of Misidentification on Women From
Migrant and Refugee Communities Experiencing Family Violence can be read here.
Further reading: Monitoring Victoria’s Family Violence Reforms: Accurate Identification of the
Predominant Aggressor
(Family Violence Implementation Monitor)

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