Responding to domestic and family violence
ANROWS Notepad | 28 July 2022
INTIMATE PARTNER HOMICIDE IN THE MEDIA
How do we respond to the risk of intimate partner homicide?
Intimate partner homicide (IPH) and the factors contributing to it have been a constant feature of the Australian digital and print media landscape in the past month. Following the findings of the coronial inquest into the 2020 murder of Hannah Clarke handed down in late June, episodes of the ABC’s The Drum, 7.30 and Australian Story have all covered the issue, as have the national newspapers and regional mastheads.
On The Drum, as part of a conversation about the Hannah Clarke inquest findings, host Julia Baird discussed ANROWS research, led by Dr Hayley Boxall of the Australian Institute of Criminology, that details three “pathways to intimate partner homicide” and identifies possible points for intervention along each trajectory.
Following this, a two-part Australian Story on the coronial inquest into the death of Amy Wensley highlighted the need to apply a domestic and family violence lens to all police investigations that involve current or former intimate partners. Key experiences of violence in intimate partner relationships covered in the episode, including the onset of violence during pregnancy, attempted strangulation and the dangers associated with an intention to separate, are all discussed in the most recent Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network Data Report, which was co-authored by ANROWS and the Network and published earlier in 2022.
7.30 featured an examination of coronial files by Professor Kerry Carrington, with the files indicating that a homicide victim had interacted with 16 different police officers across three police stations. Despite reports of escalating violence, none of these 16 officers had taken out a protection order. From ANROWS research led by Associate Professor Michael Salter, we know that women with experiences of complex trauma can be high-volume service users, but the full extent of their victimisation is rarely addressed in the criminal justice system. Police need to be equipped with resources – including sufficient time – that enable them to work in a trauma-informed way, particularly when engaging with people with experiences of complex trauma.
While academics and advocates have raised the need for trauma-informed services, prominent legal figures have pointed out that a focus on being “trauma-informed” may obscure the fundamental need for police to meet their obligations under domestic and family violence legislation, or to follow in good faith the procedures outlined in operational procedures manuals (OPMs).
We note that any problematisation of how trauma-informed practice could be implemented should not be confused with ignoring it altogether. Instead, it should be embedded in OPMs alongside procedures outlining how to, for example, act on protection order breaches or commence criminal action when perpetrator behaviour calls for it (for example in instances of stalking).
The response to DFV forms one of four pillars under the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children. Policing and legal responses are a crucial element of the overall response, and you can explore current Australian research projects examining such responses through ANROWS’s Register of Active Research.
NEW ANROWS RESEARCH RELEASED
Children who have experienced domestic and family violence five times more likely to use mental health service by 18
A recent ANROWS report has found that children exposed to domestic and family violence (DFV) are five times more likely to use a mental health service by the time they turn 18 and are experiencing, on average, a six-year delay in receiving mental health support.
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth described the report, led by a research team from The University of Western Australia, as an “important” piece of work that highlights the “intergenerational impact of domestic and family violence”.
The report, which garnered significant media attention in response to its release, prompted the Minister to comment on the importance of cross-jurisdictional talks on women’s safety due to take place between Minister Rishworth, Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, and their state and territory counterparts on Friday 22 July. The talks will focus on the next National Plan and how it can address important issues impacting women and children in Australia.
The research team used a large sample of Western Australian police and health department data to compare the rates of mental health service use for children who had been exposed to DFV and those who had no known experience of violence. The study revealed that children who had been exposed to DFV were almost five times more likely to have contact with a mental health service by the time they turned 18 than children with no known experience of violence (79% compared to 16%). It also found children who had been exposed to DFV were more likely to be diagnosed with a range of mental health issues, including a twofold risk in substance use disorder.
Minister Rishworth described the six-year delay between police and health services becoming aware of DFV in a child’s household and children receiving a mental health service as “concerning.”
“As a former psychologist working in the delivery of mental healthcare, I am concerned that children who have experienced domestic and family violence are more likely to be diagnosed with a range of mental health issues, including a twofold increase in substance abuse.”
ANROWS CEO Padma Raman emphasised the need for proactive approaches to recovery and healing saying, “Even where there may be no or limited visible signs of mental distress, we should be encouraging everyone in a child’s network to take the opportunity to act early and buffer the risk of mental ill health. Children shouldn’t have to be visibly struggling with their mental health before the trauma of violence is addressed.”
The report is the first project from the 2020-2022 ANROWS Core Grant Research Project, funded by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, to be finalised.
Each of the eight projects funded focus on children and young people and the impacts of gender-based violence on their lives and wellbeing, as well as building the evidence base on violence used by young people. The remaining Core projects are due for finalisation over the coming months.
ANROWS RESEARCH TAKES HOME AUSTRALIAN LEGAL RESEARCH AWARD
“No straight lines” report named among Australia’s best legal research
At this year’s Australian Legal Research Awards, “No straight lines”: Self-represented litigants in family law proceedings involving allegations about family violence, a report based on ANROWS research led by Associate Professor Jane Wangmann (University of Technology Sydney), took home the 2022 Non-Traditional Research Output Award.
The researchers found that the primary motivation for self-representation is financial. Self-represented litigants feel the impact of their self-representation, as well as their experiences of family violence, in a number of ways – primarily in their lack of knowledge of the legal process. People choosing to represent themselves in litigation are often unaware of the heavy emphasis on paperwork and negotiation in family law cases and are unprepared to conduct these actions in ways that support their case. Their ability to perform these actions is also affected by their experiences of violence and resulting trauma, as well as perceptions of safety.
You can download and read the report through the Publications suite on the ANROWS website. While you are there, take a look at Transforming legal understandings of intimate partner violence, authored by Associate Professor Stella Tarrant, Professor Julia Tolmie and George Giudice, which took home the Non-Traditional Research Output Award in 2020.
Did you know?
Making submissions to key government inquiries is one knowledge translation activity regularly undertaken by ANROWS. This submission, which supports affirmative consent and ensuring intimate partner sexual violence is better addressed in the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), was provided to the Queensland Law Reform Commission in January 2020.
CLOSING SOON: FUTURE-PROOFING SAFETY: COVID-19 AND FAMILY VIOLENCE IN VICTORIA
The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is inviting individuals who work in family violence or other related services (such as legal and family services) in Victoria to share their experiences of how their client service needs changed and how their services adapted to meet these changing needs during COVID-19. The survey is accessible through the AIFS website.
SURVEY FOR VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS FROM COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO QPS RESPONSES TO DFV
The Queensland Government has appointed Judge Deborah Richards to conduct an independent Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police Service (QPS) responses to domestic and family violence (DFV). One component of the Inquiry that will ensure the voices of victims and survivors of DFV are heard is an official survey designed to gain an understanding of how victims and survivors have been treated by the QPS following a disclosure of DFV.
The survey is run through Qualtrics, and further information is available on the first page.
WORK WITH ANROWS
We are currently recruiting for two roles: a Project Officer (Evidence to Action), to contribute to our knowledge translation and exchange activities, and a Project Officer (Partnerships and Evaluation) to support the implementation and expansion of our evaluation and partnerships portfolio.
For more information on both roles, and instructions on how to apply, please visit our Careers page.
New research and resources
This edition of Notepad features the latest edition of the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book, as well as a range of national and international research on legal responses and services for domestic and family violence research.
National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book. (2022).
When staying home isn’t safe—Monash university [website]
Books and reports
Breger, M. L. (2022). Exploring norms and family laws across the globe. Lexington Books.
Clarke, J. (2022). Working with ongoing domestic and family violence in family dispute resolution (FDR): Problems and possibilities (QUT Centre for Justice Briefing Paper). https://research.qut.edu.au/centre-for-justice/wp-content/uploads/sites/304/2022/06/Briefing-Paper-24-Clarke-FINAL-1.pdf
Curran, L. (2022). “Going deeper” – The Invisible Hurdles stage III research evaluation final report. Centre for Rights & Justice, Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4147431
Woodlock, D., Alexander, C., Domingo-Cabarrubias, L., Zhong, C., Cao, K., Weinberg, J., Grant, G., & Sato, M. (2022). Legal tech for justice enhancing access to justice in family violence legal services. Australian Centre for Justice Innovation. https://www.monash.edu/law/research/excellence/acji/research/legal-tech-for-justice-enhancing-access-to-justice-in-family-violence-legal-services
Backes, B. L., Wasim, A., Stephenson, M., & Wood, L. (2022). “See what we see”: Law enforcement perceptions on using cameras for evidence collection in domestic violence cases. Victims & Offenders, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/15564886.2022.2094517
Bordelon, E. (2022). Domestic violence and body-worn cameras: Should privacy law guide rules on recording? George Mason International Law Journal, 13(1). https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/gmjintco13&div=7&id=&page=
Hurley, M. (2022). Towards ending over-imprisonment: Addressing the impact of bail laws on women in Victoria. Precedent. https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/informit.509363867721731
Stardust, Z., Gillett, R., & Albury, K. (2022). Surveillance does not equal safety: Police, data and consent on dating apps. Crime, Media, Culture. https://doi.org/10.1177/17416590221111827
Vakhitova, Z., Iliadis, M., Harris, B., Tyson, D., & Flynn, A. (2022). The merits and risks of body-worn camera footage in domestic and family violence incidents and legal proceedings: A study of police perceptions and experiences. Policing and Society, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2022.2082421
In the media
The Hannah Clarke inquest reveals, yet again, significant system failures. Here’s what’s urgently needed for women’s safety—The Conversation
Coronial inquest into violence against women released—The Wire
Domestic violence: Australia’s silent epidemic—ABC News
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