Posted in Media releases
Study highlights gap between intentions and outcomes of domestic violence law and strategies for systems reform
Wednesday, 25th November 2020
Women victims/survivors—especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women—are being identified as perpetrators of domestic and family violence (DFV) on protection orders.
A new research report from ANROWS has examined this issue and offers recommendations for how police and courts can better identify and respond to the “person most in need of protection”, an explicit provision in the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012.
The report, “Accurately identifying ‘the person most in need of protection’ in domestic and family violence law”, has been published amid national concern that police and courts are using legal sanctions against victims/survivors of DFV who have used violence in response to their abuser.
In the Queensland legislation, police and courts are explicitly advised to identify the person most in need of protection and issue orders that will prevent them from coming to harm in the future. However, the report shows that practical and systemic barriers are preventing this from occurring and that the problem is not confined to Queensland.
The research shows that the likelihood of a woman being inappropriately identified as a perpetrator is increased by factors such as misperceptions about victim behaviour, resourcing and time constraints, as well as organisational culture and procedural requirements.
For example, when attending an incident of DFV, the priority for police is to make the scene safe by determining who is the aggressor and who is the victim very quickly. This approach leads to a tendency to focus on single incidents of violence when assessing who is most in need of a protection order, rather than considering the history of an abusive relationship and the overarching pattern of coercive control.
Women who have “fought back” are therefore at greater risk of being misidentified as a perpetrator.
The report responds directly to a recommendation in the 2017 Annual report of the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board.
“The Death Review and Advisory Board found that women whose deaths were linked to DFV often had their own police records showing they had been identified as a perpetrator of domestic and family violence prior to their death,” explained lead researcher and ANROWS CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow. “This was true for a high proportion of female victims, and nearly all Aboriginal victims.”
“The fact that our systems have not only failed to protect women from becoming victims of homicide—but have frequently misidentified them as the greater threat—is alarming. This research provides important context for a national understanding of how we can better support the ‘person most in need of protection’.”
State Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Unit Inspector Ben Martain said the Queensland Police Service (QPS) was focused on working with the community and its partners to prevent, disrupt, respond and investigate domestic and family violence.
“We are part of the whole of government integrated service response to domestic and family violence and are dedicated to working closely with the community and our partners including ANROWS, to improve outcomes for victims and develop evidence based practices to prevent and disrupt offending,” Inspector Martain said.
“There are several focus areas that we will continue to develop to support the front line police response to those people most in need of protection. These include policy reform, developing process efficiencies, delivering contemporary training, enhancing domestic and family violence cultural attitudes/leadership and leveraging technology.
“Our Domestic Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Units and High Risk Teams continue to review all cases to identify areas for improvement and ensure we have a holistic view of every matter. This information also supports front line officers in their response to individual incidents.
“In direct response to this report, the QPS will also be directing further efforts to training products for front line officers including creating a domestic and family violence manual and coercive control training.”
The report will be launched in a webinar on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Dr Nancarrow will be joined in a discussion of the research findings and policy and practice implications by His Honour Terry Ryan, State Coroner and Chair of the Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board; His Honour Colin Strofield, Magistrate at Brisbane Magistrates Court; and the Queensland Police Service’s Inspector Ben Martain, Manager of the State Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Unit.
For further information, contact Michele Robinson at ANROWS
on +61 0417 780 556 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) is a not-for-profit independent national research organisation.
ANROWS is an initiative of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.
ANROWS is the only such research organisation in Australia.