If you go to Court you will have to explain your personal situation to the Judge or Magistrate so that they can determine how they can assist you. This can often be a very difficult process for a number of reasons, including:
- The events have occurred over a lengthy period of time and it can be hard to recall something that happened many years ago; and
- The event may be linked to a traumatic experience.
This process can often be further complicated if your former partner provides contradicting information to the Court, claiming that things happened differently or not at all. It will be very helpful if you are able to keep a record of significant events that have occurred and any evidence you can find that supports your version of the events. Doing this at the time of the incident, or shortly after the incident has occurred, will help to ensure that you capture the most complete version of the story and have all available evidence on hand.
How to record information
There are many different ways you can record this information, including:
- Keep a diary – this can often be the easiest way to record your story in a detailed and well-ordered manner. A diary can also be an inconspicuous way of recording events.
- Make notes on your mobile – you can use a note taking app or the calendar app on your mobile telephone to keep a record of events that happen. ‘Arc’ is a free, specially designed smartphone app for keeping track of incidents of family violence. It allows you to upload photos, videos, audio recordings and diary entries. Further information about Arc, including safety considerations, can be found at the Technology Safety Australia website. You should read the Safety and Privacy Considerations and Tips on the website before downloading the app.
- Text messages – if you have a friend or family member that you can talk to about what you are experiencing, send them detailed text message when something happens so that you can save the text as a record of what happened.
Other important things to consider when collecting information, particularly over an extended period of time:
- Keep it secure – Keep your records in a safe and secure place.
- If it is physical (i.e. paper copies, a camera or USB) keep it in a locked safe or security deposit box, give it to a friend or store it at work for safe keeping;
- If it is electronic, ensure that it is password protected.
If you believe that your former partner may be monitoring or remotely accessing your electronic device, keep the information on a more secure device that they do not know about or cannot access. You can find more information about keeping your devices secure at1a. How to protect yourself and your technology.
- Keep copies – Things often get lost, stolen or destroyed, so you should keep at least one other copy of your records.
- Keep an electronic copy of all physical documents (scan them or take a photo);
- Back up all electronic files onto a hard-drive or USB that you are able to keep in a safe place;
- Save copies of documents onto on online storage facility (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) so that you can access them from any computer;
- Email yourself copies of electronic documents and save them in your inbox;
- Download and save copies of all text message conversations you have with your former partner.
What information to record
When trying to understand the experiences you have been through, the Judge or Magistrate will want to have a complete understanding of what happened. This includes knowing:
- When (date and time) and where the incident happened;
- Exactly what happened – including what your former partner said and did, and what you said and did;
- Whether anyone else was present at the time and, if there were, what they saw or heard;
- Whether you reported the incident to anyone – e.g. Police, a doctor, friends or family.
You should also try to keep a record of any other relevant important events such as:
- Any meetings with Police (including Incident Numbers), Child Protection services, medical professionals and Lawyers;
- If you have children, any communications you have with the children’s school about their performance or behaviours at school, Centrelink (regarding parenting payments, etc) and the Child Support Agency;
- If you attend any relevant programs or community groups, such as a parenting program, a substance abuse or mental health program, or Family Dispute Resolution.
There are many different forms of information that are worth collecting. This includes not only your recollection of an event but also any documentary evidence you can provide to show that the event happened and in the way that you say it did.
Examples of some documentary evidence
- Text messages – in particular, text message conversations between yourself and your former partner which show the way they communicate with you and what they have said;
- Photographs – including photographs of any injuries you or another person have suffered, or of any damage done by your former partner;
- Video and audio recordings – events can include verbal abuse, physical abuse, drunken behaviour even if not directed at you, abusive or hostile behaviour to other people, even to friends and family;
- Screenshots – showing text messages, call logs or posts to social media accounts; and
- Bank statements – this is particularly the case if you have experienced financial abuse.
[Article last updated: 21/9/21]