Research reveals risk factors for continuing family violence

Research reveals risk factors for continuing family violence

Thursday, 18 February 2016

People at risk of breaching family violence intervention orders are identified in new research that could boost efforts to keep victims safe.

In one of the largest studies of its kind in the world, Victoria Legal Aid examined more than 15,000 clients charged with breaching family violence intervention orders from 2008 to 2015.

The report – Characteristics of respondents charged with a breach of family violence intervention orders (docx, 471.1 KB) – focuses on a group of more than 4500 clients who received funding for ongoing representation in court.

Of those almost a quarter were charged more than once with breaching conditions of court orders.

'The research helps identify someone who could continue to use violence and breach orders and that helps us manage risk to keep victims and families safe.’

Bevan Warner

Managing Director Bevan Warner said the research, released today, revealed common characteristics that contributed to what we know about a high risk group. It revealed:

  • men who are unemployed, have an acquired brain injury or intellectual disability and had already experienced legal problems before their first charge of a breach pose a high risk of reoffending
  • clients assisted with more than one charge of breaching were twice as likely to have an acquired brain injury
  • female clients, who made up just 13 per cent of those helped with charges of breaching, had higher levels of disability and disadvantage than male clients.

'Combined with what we already know about risk factors, the research helps identify someone who could continue to use violence and breach orders,' Mr Warner said, 'and that helps us manage risk to keep victims and families safe.’

People can apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a family violence intervention order with conditions to keep them safe from emotional, physical, financial or sexual abuse by a partner or family member. Orders carry conditions designed to prevent family violence occurring or continuing.

Mr Warner said legal help for both victims and perpetrators was fundamental to prevent family violence and stopping it from escalating but less than four in 10 people saw a lawyer at court because of overwhelming demand.

‘Lawyers play a vital role in ensuring that people understand and comply with intervention orders so they are not breached. They can help them understand that violent behaviour is against the law and link them to services such as behaviour change, drug, alcohol or mental health programs when they first enter the justice system,’ he said.

‘Lawyers play a vital role in ensuring that people understand and comply with intervention orders so they are not breached.' 

Bevan Warner

‘The research also highlights a need for early assessments for clients who may have acquired brain injuries, to help us understand the nature of the impairment and how it might impede their ability to comply with court direction and refer them to the support needed to reduce the risk of reoffending.’

Mr Warner said the research would inform work under way at Victoria Legal Aid to develop a Client Safety Framework to support families experiencing violence.

‘The framework and further family violence training will give us consistency in recognising and responding to safety risk factors –  such as stalking,  escalating violence, controlling behaviour or a recent separation – so we can work with clients, the courts and other services to reduce the likelihood of further family violence.’

Victoria Legal Aid is the state’s biggest provider of family violence legal help, assisting almost equal numbers of men and women for family violence intervention orders.

We provided more than 15,700 duty lawyer services in 2014–15 for family violence intervention orders and breaches.

Read the full report

To find out more about the key research findings and download the full report see Characteristics of respondents charged with breach of family violence intervention orders.

Characteristics of legally aided respondents charged with breach of family violence intervention orders

 

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