Some Canberra women are actively avoiding taking out domestic violence orders against their partners for fear that doing so will put them at a greater risk.
ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey has warned some victims of violence may be placing themselves in danger if they rely solely on a court order for their protection.
"Women should be talking to experts in the field about what risks taking out an order means to them. Often times after talking to an expert women will refrain from taking out an order as a result of the heightened risk that can't be managed," Mr Hinchey said.
Sarah*, who has endured six years of terror at the hands of a former partner, said she had repeatedly taken out domestic violence orders, only to withdraw them because they enraged her attacker.
She initially decided to act after her former partner mauled her in front of their toddler.
"He grabbed me by the throat and lifted me up and said, 'I'll f...ing kill you.' Then my child came out of the room and was trying to climb up me, yelling at his dad to stop."
After Wayne hit Sarah again on his way out of the house, knocking her backwards and splitting her head open on a corner, she went to the police, who advised her to take out a domestic violence order. But after the order was served she returned home to find her car and other property vandalised.
"The DVOs have taken me back further. I'd do it, and feel like I'm one step ahead, and then he'd find out and I would go two steps backwards. If it wasn't for the DVO in the first place he wouldn't know my address."
"So far I have had six DVOs against him, he gets served it and all the threats happen again, I can't prove it, so then I just don't go ahead. If these things are happening to me because of the DVO, then I'm not going to take that risk."
Sarah said she had only reported about half the times Wayne had breached the orders, which she estimated had happened around 30 times in total over recent years.
Since the first court order had been served he had repeatedly called her to say he was at her house and vandalised the property. She has since discovered that Wayne has a conviction for breaching a domestic violence order taken out by another woman.
Mr Hinchey said another problem with the system was that many victims did not necessarily want to take legal action against their partners.
"They don't report it because they want the person prosecuted, they just want the violence to stop. Women in that situation are very reluctant to come forward to take steps to protect themselves because they are worried that they will put in train a justice response over which they have no control. I'd be encouraging people to come forward to the Domestic Violence Crisis Service."
A police spokesman said there had been an increase in reports of family violence since the alleged murders of two Canberra women, Tara Costigan and Sabah Al-Mdwali, and encouraged those in fear of their safety to contact police as well as one of the support services available including the Domestic Violence Crisis Service of the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.
*details have been changed to protect individuals