4529.0 - Defining the Data Challenge for Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence, 2013  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2013  First Issue
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Responses are actions that may be taken following an incident of family, domestic or sexual violence. These actions may be taken by:

  • the victim, family and friends, or other networks associated with the victim;
  • a witness to the incident;
  • the perpetrator; or
  • service providers and the civil or criminal justice system.
Any responses by people other than the victim, perpetrator or witness depend on disclosure of the event to them. There may be situations where no action is ever taken.

Any actions taken are influenced by the characteristics of individual people and the perceptions they and their community hold; for example, the degree to which family, domestic or sexual violence is accepted as ‘something that happens’, or the perceived utility of reporting incidents to formal systems or accessing formal services. Events such as changes in policies and the funding of services and the widespread publicising of these may change a victim's willingness to come forward and report crimes. Perceptions of the seriousness of an incident of family, domestic or sexual violence and the perception of whether or not the incident was a crime will also influence any actions taken.

Much of what is known empirically about the behaviour of perpetrators following the incidence of family, domestic or sexual violence comes through the operation and analysis of perpetrator programs. Other evidence about perpetrators is known as a result of disclosure by victims. However there are still gaps in the understanding of responses and it would be useful to know more about the actions a perpetrator might take following incidents of family, domestic or sexual violence.

Informal responses
Informal responses may involve talking to someone such as a family member, friend, neighbour, work colleague or religious advisor. Perceptions of the seriousness of an incident of sexual assault or family violence, and the perception of whether or not the incident was a crime will also influence the response and the course of action taken. Prevention responses such as public education campaigns can help to advise friends and family to respond in more constructive ways.

Formal responses
Formal responses encompass the actions that are undertaken by a formal system following a report of an incident of family, domestic and sexual violence. Once reported the organisation may undertake actions on behalf of the victim, either from a self-directed report or by referral from another agency. Actions may also be taken against the perpetrator particularly when the event is identified as a criminal act.

Government and non-government agency and service responses fall into three main groups.
  • Detection and prosecution: including processes of the criminal and civil justice systems and associated agencies and professionals.
  • Treatment and support: including health service responses, child protection services, crisis support services, community services, services specific to family and domestic violence and services specific to sexual violence.
  • Prevention: including education programs, public health campaigns and treatment and rehabilitation programs. Education and prevention programs are covered later in this publication.
One example of an action taken by a formal system in response to family and domestic violence is the utilisation of Family Violence Orders, which are generally made under prescribed laws of the states and territories to protect a person from family and domestic violence. They can be referred to by different names across different jurisdictions, e.g.:
  • Protection Orders (QLD & ACT);
  • Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (NSW);
  • Intervention Orders and Family Violence Safety Notices (VIC);
  • Restraining Orders (NT, SA & WA); and
  • Family Violence Orders / Police Family Violence Orders (TAS).

These orders are protective functions of the justice system that seek to prevent one person from being physically located within the vicinity of an individual or a specified premises, or stalking or harassing another person and can remove a perpetrator from their home. Generally the order itself is a civil justice order, but if breached, the matter then becomes criminal. Children may be included on a parent’s application for an order. In some Australian jurisdictions there is specific provision for the making of orders to protect a child from exposure to domestic violence. Some jurisdictions go further, so that exposing a child to domestic violence against another person is itself domestic violence perpetrated against the child. Furthermore, if there are allegations that a child is being abused, state or territory child welfare authorities have a statutory responsibility for the child’s protection. This may involve intervening in a family in order to prevent further abuse, notifying police of activity which may constitute a crime, or bringing proceedings in state or territory courts that have jurisdiction to make orders about the welfare of children (Clark & Quadara 2010).

Child Care and Protection Orders are made by a state or territory Children's Court Magistrate when it is believed that a child is in need of protection from harm. There are a number of different types of Child Care and Protection Orders, which may direct a parent or guardian to do specific actions, or may grant supervision of the child to a government department or other family member or person. They can also involve removing a child from the family situation. Orders may be short or long-term, possibly lasting until the young person turns 18 years of age. For a magistrate to grant a Child Protection Order, they must be sure that the child or young person is in need of protection and that the order is not more intrusive than what is needed for the child to remain safe.

Finally, some people resolve or address issues of family and domestic violence through the family or other courts.

Police are usually the first point of contact with the criminal justice system in the reporting of sexual assault and often for cases of family and domestic violence. The processes that follow a report to police may include investigation, evidence-gathering, apprehension and charging of an alleged offender, bail, remand, trial and imprisonment. It is important to understand victims’ reasons for reporting or not reporting incidents of sexual assault to police, as sexual assault is believed to be one of the most under-reported of all crimes.
Representation of the flow of cases through the criminal justice system

Where formal, non-justice system responses are concerned, a range of services and agencies are available at the local level. Referral to these services may come from a range of sources and can be self-initiated, court-initiated or as a result of mandatory reporting requirements (covering professionals such as teachers suspecting cases of child abuse). These agencies, and the services they provide, include:
  • family violence services - provide case management, emergency accommodation options and community education supports;
  • legal services;
  • Specialist Homelessness Services - transitional supported accommodation and related support services for women and children escaping domestic violence, or for those at risk of homelessness;
  • counselling support programs - provide individual and group counselling for women and children;
  • family relationships centres - information, support, referral and dispute resolution;
  • telephone help lines - confidential counselling and a referral service for victims and perpetrators; and
  • perpetrator behaviour change programs - group programs for perpetrators that address violent behaviour, prioritising the safety of the victim and encouraging the perpetrator to take responsibility for their violence and end it; or programs for victims that empower and build confidence.
It should be noted that some behaviour that would qualify as family and domestic violence under relevant legislation might, in some service sectors, be directed to alternative formal complaints processes. For instance, incidents of abuse by carers who may also be in a familial or domestic relationship with the victim may be referred to state or territory Child, Disability, Health or Aged Care Commissioners.

For each of the systems that provide responses to family, domestic or sexual violence, two areas of analysis are required. The first focuses on the services provided and the utilisation of those services.
The second focuses on the performance and cost of the system, of which the five major ones are:
  • criminal justice system;
  • health services;
  • community services (including child protection and crisis support);
  • services dealing specifically with family, domestic or sexual violence; and
  • ancillary support services required in addition to family, domestic or sexual violence services, for instance personal care.
For these major systems, information is needed relating to the provision and utilisation of services and the performance and cost of the system providing those services. For such analysis a count of family, domestic or sexual violence cases, rather than incidents, would more appropriately measure the demand for services. This would need to be considered in the context of a broad, system-wide approach that additionally included analysis of outcomes.

It is also very important to understand the usage of multiple services, in particular whether a victim or perpetrator might approach or use multiple services, and if so, whether they disclose to each of these services that the incident is family, domestic or sexual violence related.

One further area would include an examination of the way in which these systems interact with each other. Given the existence of multi-agency responses to family, domestic or sexual violence, an understanding of the degree to which agencies and systems operate in a co-ordinated and integrated fashion is fundamentally important to best practice.

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