Stella Tarrant said there was growing awareness that domestic violence is usually not just one-off incidents of physical abuse, but an insidious pattern of coercion and control by one person over another.
But legal decision makers, including defence lawyers, she said, were too often failing to identify and take into account those more complex dynamics.
And, as an ABC News investigation recently revealed, the problem sometimes begins when police who attend domestic violence callouts misidentify which party is most in need of protection, and arrest a woman who may have fought back against an abusive spouse.
“If we’re not recognising when a woman defends herself against that form of violence, it’s basically like the criminal justice system saying it never happened,” Tarrant said.
“It’s an institutional response … an act of refusing to see that that violence is occurring.”