Can A Domestic Violence Victim Sue?

December 21, 2018

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on a case in which a woman who endured a terrifying four-hour ordeal when attacked by her husband while she was preparing dinner, during which she was stripped naked, bound with electrical tape and slashed with a knife, received an award of $243,000 in damages.


domestic violence victims rights

Domestic Violence Survivors

It noted that the number of cases in which a domestic violence survivor has sued their violent ex-partner for damages was relatively small, referring to just two other cases in NSW.  In 2002 a woman was awarded $572,815 after her husband attacked her just months into their marriage, and in 2009 a woman who received serious injuries when assaulted by her former partner was awarded $324,549. See the SMH article here.

The low incidence of such claims for damages is surprising given that recently it was reported in the news that in the past year SA police investigated more than 10,800 crimes related to domestic violence.  Even then, it was conceded that this number did not include all family violence-related crimes because many are not reported.

What Can The Victim Do?

Where does a person stand when they’ve been the victim of domestic violence?  What action can be taken against the offender?

We previously reviewed a Family Law case in which a woman was awarded a significant portion of the property after she produced photographs to the Court showing injuries caused by her former husband.  The Court found that the abuse she suffered had affected her mental state and future employment prospects.

But an assault by a spouse is no different than any other form of assault when it comes down to the rights of the victim to claim damages.  And although a domestic violence offender is liable to face criminal charges, the right of the victim to sue is not dependant on the outcome of those charges.

Suing For Damages

Of course, there is little point suing for damages if the offender has no means to pay as that would involve legal fees with no way of recovering those costs.  In those cases it is often better to consider making  a claim under the Victims of Crime scheme under which the maximum compensation is $100,000 (for claims arising out of incidents that occurred on or after 1 July 2015).

You can read more about these claims at:

There are time limits within which to make a claim for damages and anyone who has been the subject of domestic violence can get advice about their rights and options by contacting Websters Lawyers on 8231 1363 or sending through an online enquiry here.