Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

M v. M High Court of New Zealand (2005)

Sexual violence and rape, Domestic and intimate partner violence

This case concerns the Domestic Violence Act of 1995. Appellant sent emails, faxes, and oral communications to politicians and others, claiming that the respondent, her brother, raped her when she was 11. In Family Court, the judge concluded that the allegation of rape was unfounded and that appellant’s purpose for the communications was to shame the respondent and ruin his reputation, amounting to harassment or psychological abuse. The judge issued a protection order pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act of 1995, prohibiting appellant from further communications alleging the rape. On appeal, it was contended that, 1) the family court judge wrongly found that appellant’s behavior constituted psychological abuse or harassment, and 2) that the special conditions imposed in the protection order were unduly broad, infringing upon the appellant’s freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA). The High Court rejected the first ground of appeal. As to the second, the High Court read the Domestic Violence Act narrowly, saying that the legislature could not have intended to pass a bill that would conflict with the NZBORA. The High Court would modify the Family Court Judge’s protection order only to qualify that appellant is not precluded from discussing the matter with other family members, attorneys, or law enforcement, thereby preserving her rights under NZBORA. The High Court also approved a Constitutional Court holding that the right of freedom of expression extends to a woman’s right to use her own name in connection with her status as a victim of sexual abuse.