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When Words Hurt: AVOs as Defense Against Verbal Abuse

AVO for verbal abuse | Justice Family Lawyers

An AVO for verbal abuse may be applied by someone suffering from things like constant criticism, regular shouting, and offensive language. 

The effects of verbal abuse can be more complex to prove than physical abuse, especially if the abuse is done in a subtle or controlled way.

Verbal abuse, in the end, involves a power dynamic, which means that the abuser tries to gain control over the victim over time.

During this time, they’ll try to control or hurt someone close to them with their words.

What is Verbal Abuse?

Verbal abuse is one of the most common forms of emotional abuse. It’s when someone uses offensive language to hurt, control, make fun of, manipulate, or put down another person in a way that hurts their psychological well-being.

Verbal abuse can happen in any relationship – between couples, parents and children, family ties, and even in the workplace.

Sometimes verbal abuse comes with physical abuse, but this isn’t always the case. Abuse can happen without hurting someone physically.

Is Verbal Abuse a Crime?

Verbal abuse alone is NOT a crime. This means that under the Domestic and Personal Violence Act, verbal abuse or verbal assault CAN ONLY be a crime if it falls under the scope of “intimidation”, which can be found in the following situation:

  • Gaslighting
  • Threat
  • Using offensive language and name calling
  • Often shouting when approaching
  • Comments that hurt self-confidence or a person’s sense of reality
  • Undermining opinions, feelings, and judgment
  • Intentionally embarrassing in public
  • Lying
  • Blaming

Offensive language in intimidation doesn’t have a clear definition, but it usually means anything that could shock or upset a reasonably tolerant person.

For example, in the past, courts have seen swearing as offensive or a form of verbal assault. However, now that swearing is so common in media and everyday life, it is hard to distinguish whether it can still fall under verbal abuse.

The problem is that it can be hard to know when words are inappropriate, and people who use them may be criticised for how they are interpreted, not for what they are meant to say.

Verbal abuse might fall under the category of an AVO for harassment, so it is important to understand how to plead your case before a court.

Moreover, the decision to drop common assault charges rests with the prosecuting authorities and is influenced by various factors such as the evidence available, the cooperation of witnesses, and the overall circumstances of the case.

The Significance of Fear or Intimidation

Fear or intimidation must be present in presenting evidence in the application of AVO for Verbal Abuse.

Intimidation is any kind of contact, like a text message, phone call, Facebook message, or even in-person meeting, that makes the victim afraid for their safety or the safety of the people around them and their property.

It is only then that it can be classified as a criminal offense. 

History of Violence

Section 7 of the Domestic and Personal Violence Act says that the court can decide if an accused defendant’s actions amount to “intimidation” based on whether or not they have a history of violence, especially in domestic violence cases.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Apply for an AVO for Verbal Abuse?

Anyone can apply for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), or the police can do it.

However, seeking a lawyer’s advice when dealing with the application for AVO for verbal abuse is still highly recommended to know more about your rights and be guided about the whole process. 

How to Defend an AVO for Verbal Abuse?

If the defendant chooses to defend an AVO for verbal abuse, they will need to proceed to a court hearing.

The Applicant will present their case to the judge and try to obtain an AVO.

The defendant will need to put on evidence defending their position.

Defendant’s AVO lawyers will also be there to cross-examine the PINOP.

After the Court listens to the evidence, the Court will either:

  • make a Final Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), or
  • dismiss the AVO and make no orders.

If a Final AVO is made against them, they can apply to appeal the decision to the District Court. The defendant have 28 days to do this.

Another option would be to try and have the AVO dropped before it goes to a hearing.

This can be done by negotiating with the police or writing to them inviting them to drop the charges. Our AVO lawyers have plenty of experience doing this, so get in touch with our team today.

Defendant Getting Out of the Family Home

Once served with an AVO for Verbal Abuse, it is important to read the terms of the AVO carefully so you know whether you have to get out of the fmail home. 

The  AVO is a written stipulation that lists everything a defendant must not do to avoid breaching the order, or else a criminal case can be filed against them.

That includes assaulting, threatening, stalking, harassing, intimidating, destroying, or damaging the property of the AVO holder.

An AVO could say the defendant can’t enter or come within a certain distance of the family home where they have personal items to collect.

In that case, a Property Recovery Order can be applied to get their things back.  This can be approved by:

    • A senior police officer
    • The Court when making an interim AVO
    • The Court when making a final AVO.


An AVO for verbal abuse may be applied by someone suffering from intimidation, like constant criticism, regular shouting, and offensive language. 

Evidence of intimidation must be present when filing an AVO for verbal abuse.

Such proof must have the defendant’s intention of causing fear of physical or psychological harm to the victim. 

Speak to the best team of AVO lawyers so you can get the best advice on how to best proceed with your AVO.

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