The Risk element of the Framework describes the actual and perceived level of the risk or likelihood of FDV occurring, and relates both to potential victims and to potential perpetrators. In short, risk represents the likelihood of being a victim or an offender. To develop a general, community level indicator of current risk, data that measure past prevalence and incidence of FDV can be used. At an individual or sub-population group level, the risk or likelihood of being a victim or perpetrator of FDV can be examined in the context of factors that enhance the risk of, or protect against, FDV.
Community level risk of family and domestic violence victimisation
At the community level the risk or likelihood of an individual person experiencing an incident of FDV in Australia may be measured by recent past data on actual victimisation. The level of FDV victimisation in the community can be measured by both incidence and prevalence.
Community incidence is defined as the number of incidents of FDV in the relevant population in a specified reference period.
Community prevalence is defined as the number of people in the relevant population who have experienced FDV at least once. This may be recorded or estimated for a given period, since a certain age, or as lifetime experience.
Both incidence and prevalence may be expressed as a percentage, or a rate per 100,000 of the specified population for the specified reference period.
Community level likelihood of family and domestic violence offending
The likelihood of any individual person being a perpetrator of FDV is also of interest. However, measurement of this risk is more problematic as many perpetrators are not detected or recorded by agencies - whether by the justice system or through services related to health and welfare - and therefore reliable information about them is scarce. Furthermore, if perpetrators do come into contact with the criminal justice system or other formal processes they may not be recorded in such a way as to identify them specifically as a perpetrator of FDV as opposed to other offenders.
Individual level risk of being a victim or offender
When examining the risk of a particular individual being a victim of FDV, it is important to consider the contextual factors that may enhance this risk or protect against it. For example, the environment within which one lives - whether this be linked to culture or religion or socioeconomic status - may serve to increase or decrease the risk of becoming an FDV victim or offender. In this respect, the personal histories and experiences that an individual brings to their interactions with others can be viewed as risk enhancing or risk preventing. For example, an individual’s personal history of violence, substance abuse or mental illness, or the presence of a disability, may be risk enhancing.
The risk enhancing or protecting factors that both the potential victim and the potential offender bring to their relationship together, can then be combined to provide an indicator of the likelihood or risk of FDV in that relationship.
Risk and protective factors are also aspects of the impacts and outcomes element of the Framework, discussed later.
The risk or likelihood of being a victim and/or perpetrator of FDV may be increased through previous exposure to family and domestic violence or other forms of violence. Information about previous exposure, for example, can feed into the formal risk assessment tools that are often utilised by agencies when determining the level of response and support required for clients. As a result, interventions can be planned to reduce the risk in individual situations.
Additionally, profiles of high-risk categories of potential perpetrators and victims may be constructed using data about known perpetrators and victims. Such data may be collected through victimisation surveys, or administrative data held by service providers. These profiles may then be used to target education campaigns and programs to influence attitudes and behaviour, and raise the awareness of people in these categories.
Changes over time
The risk or likelihood of being a FDV victim or offender may change over time, or as a result of mediating factors. Such factors may include increased levels of support through informal networks; or engagement with programs aimed at supporting parents, relieving stressors, improving family functioning or parental efficacy.
It is necessary to be able to track key indicators and determinants of FDV reporting to measure whether or not these are influencing apparent changes in incidence and prevalence:
- The level of reporting of FDV may change over time, independently of any change in incidence and prevalence rates, e.g. through awareness campaigns;
- The processes for translating reported incidents into recording systems may change; and
- The timing of reporting does not necessarily correspond to the timing of incident(s), e.g. current figures may be inflated by reporting of past incidents.