Heather Douglas and Robin Fitzgerald write for the Conversation:
[I]n a system originally intended to protect women from violence, our research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) women are being swept up in domestic violence-related offences in disproportionate numbers compared with the overall population. Many are ending up in prison as a result.
In our study, we examined Queensland court data on protection order applications and breaches for the year 2013-14. We found a dramatic over-representation of ATSI people – especially women – in the protection order system.
Women are typically much less likely to be respondents in domestic violence cases and charged with breaches of a protection order. However, of the women imprisoned for breaches in our study, 69% of them were ATSI women.
When these women fight back, they may not fit with stereotypical expectations of how a victim should behave: for example, vulnerable, blameless and weak. This might result in police applying for a protection order against them or charging them with breaching an order.
Many strategies have been put forth to address the over-representation of ATSI people in the justice system. Of urgent concern to us is the plight of ATSI women being incarcerated in ever-increasing numbers in a system originally introduced to protect women from violence.