IMPACTS AND OUTCOMES
Some impacts and outcomes may apply to victims and perpetrators alike. The nature of the relationship may also be a factor, such as whether or not the victims and perpetrators are in an ongoing relationship or whether the perpetrator was a stranger, in the case of some sexual violence. Data related to different types of victims is important because there will be varying impacts and outcomes for different populations such as children, older people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with a disability.
Gathering data for this element requires information that is relative to all time-frames – short, medium and long-term. Although impacts and outcomes for victims of family, domestic and sexual violence can be similar there is also divergence. The short-term impacts for victims can be the indirect physical, social and psychological costs of violence (Laurence & Spalter-Roth 1995).
Medium and long-term outcomes for victims may include changes in physical and mental health, low self-esteem, psychological wellbeing, relationship status, social and other relationships, living arrangements, work/study activities, day-to-day activities, income loss (from time off work), other economic costs related to health care, possible relocation and changes in financial status.
Victims can find themselves labelled by an event or events in ways which influence the perceptions of others and the treatment they receive. Subsequent involvement in the justice system can also result in victims experiencing further trauma.
Victims of family, domestic and sexual violence are not a homogeneous group and therefore information is needed on the diverse nature of impacts and outcomes for various populations. Children and the elderly will be impacted by these forms of violence in different ways to other victims. For young children, exposure to family violence can have serious implications for their cognitive, social and emotional development (WHO 2004). For an older person subjected to elder abuse, the vulnerabilities associated with medical conditions and the progression of age could compound the abuse being experienced.
Longitudinal data about outcomes for each of these sets of victims would assist in monitoring long-term outcomes and evaluation of interventions and outcomes related to disclosure and support. Health sector and community services datasets also provide a potentially rich data source of information. Indirect information may also be 'hidden' in case records where the incident is not for instance, identified as an incident of family or domestic violence, such as in police administrative datasets.
Information about the impacts and outcomes for perpetrators can be generated from the health, welfare and justice sectors. Pathways for perpetrators in the health and welfare sectors may involve the identification of outcomes from services and supports, such as counselling and treatment programs.
Impacts and outcomes are currently documented best when perpetrators move through the criminal justice system. Justice system data can be limited however, due to difficulty in identifying perpetrators as they move through the system and the restriction of coverage to reported incidents that result in a perpetrator becoming known to the justice system. These issues are exacerbated in relation to perpetrators of family and domestic violence, as many types of criminal acts can be committed in a family and domestic violence context. The justice system does not however, effectively or consistently identify this family and domestic violence context in recording (e.g. assault charges may not usually identify that this occurred in the family violence context). As a result, there is currently minimal information publicly available about outcomes for perpetrators.
Victimisation surveys are a potential source of information about perpetrators together with information collected at the point of contact with systems and services, although information is collected from the victim. Self-reported surveys on offending could also be potential sources of information about perpetrators, but these are not currently conducted in Australia. Longitudinal data about outcomes for perpetrators would provide data for intervention evaluations; however such collections are difficult to conduct.
Family, friends and the community
The impacts and outcomes of family, domestic and sexual violence are felt within families, extended family and social networks, the wider community, economy and society. Information is therefore required on the ways in which family, domestic and sexual violence affect these different areas for analysis.
The immediate impacts for family members, especially children who witness and are affected by the incident, can include fear as well as physical and psychological impacts, which can interfere with wellbeing and quality of life. These impacts extend to outcomes that affect family cohesion and interpersonal relationships. Services that provide support for family and friends of victims are potential data sources.
The usefulness of data on impacts and outcomes relates to potential analysis in community perceptions, attitudes and behaviours and monitoring change. Over time the data would report on and contribute to public health and safety campaigns that seek to create environments conducive to increasing the reporting of family, domestic and sexual violence incidents and creating communities able to support victims in constructive ways.
Data on the impacts and outcomes for the community would provide for an analysis of the way in which family, domestic and sexual violence may affect changes in community perception, attitudes and behaviours, or where highly prevalent, contribute to breakdown in community supports and overall wellbeing. Both direct and indirect costs are incurred by the community in relation to family, domestic and sexual violence. Direct costs include the costs of funding the systems that provide responses to these forms of violence, such as funding community prevention and education programs and the costs to individuals accessing services.
Indirect costs include the costs to businesses and to the economy of lost time and reduced productivity and the opportunity cost of using resources to provide services in response to family, domestic and sexual violence.
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