4529.0 - Conceptual Framework for Family and Domestic Violence. , 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/05/2009  First Issue
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Contents >> Responses >> OVERVIEW


The Framework provides for Responses to FDV to be classified as either informal or formal. Informal responses are actions that do not involve reporting to, or utilising services provided by, formal systems. Formal responses involve reporting to, or engaging services provided by, various formal systems - such as government services or other targeted, organised services. The distinction between informal and formal responses lies mainly in the service transaction, that is the requirement that payment be exchanged or records of service be maintained; and in the potential for codes of professional conduct to be involved, for example in mandatory reporting. Formal services will generally require that these functions be administered, whereas informal responses will not. As an example, both a friend or family member and a psychologist might be a source of support for a victim or perpetrator; on the one hand as an informal source of support the friend or family member would not be expected to take notes regarding the interaction or seek payment for their time, however the psychologist, as a formal support, would do both of these.

There are linkages and interactions between formal and informal responses, and between areas of response and impacts and outcomes.

Measures are needed to assess how well the systems are performing in delivering quality actions, along a continuum from prevention to intervention, to reduce the incidence of FDV and to improve outcomes for clients of those systems and the community as a whole. It is therefore also necessary to assess the types of services provided, how accessible they are, whether there is sufficient knowledge of these services, and finally the relevance of services to particular population groups of interest (e.g. migrant communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, children and youth, and people with disabilities).

Characteristics of response(s)

Responses are actions that may be taken following an incident of FDV. 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 criminal justice system.

Any responses by people other than the victim, perpetrator or witness depend on disclosure of the event(s) to them. It may be that no action is ever taken.

Any actions taken will depend on the characteristics of individual people and the perceptions they and their community hold; for example, the degree to which FDV 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 FDV 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 FDV 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 FDV.

Informal responses

‘Informal responses’ refer to the actions a victim or perpetrator may take following an incident(s) of FDV, that do not involve reporting to or utilising services provided by an agency belonging to a formal ‘system’. These responses may involve talking to someone informally, such as a family member, friend, neighbour, work colleague or religious advisor.

Formal responses by the system

‘Formal responses’ encompass the actions undertaken by a formal system following an incident(s) of FDV. These actions may be triggered by a victim or an offender, when they report to, or utilise a service provided by, a formal ‘system’. Alternatively, they may be actions undertaken by the system on behalf of the individual, in response to an incident(s) that becomes known to it through other means - such as a referral from another service or process. Although there is some overlap, the relevant systems fall into three main groups:
  • detection and prosecution (processes of the criminal justice system or other agencies or professionals);
  • treatment and support (health services, child protection, crisis support services, community services and services dealing specifically with FDV); and
  • prevention (education, prevention and treatment/rehabilitation programs). Education and prevention programs are covered later in the Framework.

One example of an action taken by a formal system in response to FDV is the utilisation of Family Violence Orders, which are generally made under prescribed laws of the states and territories to protect a person from FDV. They can be referred to by different names across different jurisdictions, e.g.:
  • Protection Orders (QLD & ACT);
  • Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (NSW);
  • Intervention Orders (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 prevent one person from coming within a set distance, or stalking or harassing, another person(s), and can remove a perpetrator from their home. Orders can be made by a court without the requirement of proof that an offence has been committed. Generally the order itself is a civil order, but if breached, the matter then becomes criminal. Children may be included on a parent’s application for an order.

Child Protection Orders are a further type of order, 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 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 Law Courts.

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 may for example 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;
  • Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) - 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
  • 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 the relevant Act 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 Disability, Health or Aged Care Commissioners.

For each of the systems that provide responses to FDV, outlined above, 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 FDV; and
  • ancillary support services required in addition to FDV 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 FDV 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 reveal to each of these services that the incident is FDV-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 FDV, an understanding of the degree to which agencies and systems operate in a co-ordinated and integrated fashion is fundamentally important to best practice.

Research/policy questions

There are a number of research/policy questions for systems responding to FDV.

About victims:
  • What actions are likely to be taken by a person who has experienced FDV?
  • Why do some victims seek professional services or support while others do not?
  • Are victims who do not come into contact with or report to any formal system different from those who do? In what ways?
  • What services and support are needed by victims of FDV?
  • What additional supports and services are required by specific population groups?
  • Does the type of response to FDV differ between particular population groups?
  • Are special supports required for child victims of/witnesses to FDV?
  • What is the rate of co-presentation of cases of FDV and child abuse?
  • What risks are associated with tailoring services and support around the needs of the small percentage of people who currently use these services?
  • How best might these services and support be provided?
  • How effective are programs and services in preventing victims from being subjected to FDV in the future?
  • Why do some victims report FDV to police while others do not?
  • Do specific policies, such as pro-arrest policies, have positive or negative effects on the number of FDV reports made?
  • What data are available about discretionary decision-making in arrests, where police attend an FDV incident call-out?
  • Where FDV-related matters proceed to court, do victims have legal representation?

About perpetrators:
  • What actions might be taken by a perpetrator of FDV in response to incident(s)?
  • What services might be needed by a perpetrator? How might they be accessed?
  • How likely is it that a perpetrator of FDV will re-offend?
  • How effective are programs and services in preventing perpetrators from engaging in FDV in the future?
  • Are perpetrators who do not come into contact with any formal system different from those who do? In what ways?
  • How likely is it that a perpetrator will be dealt with through the criminal justice system? What is the outcome likely to be?

About family, friends and community:
  • How well-equipped are family, friends, and the community in providing effective support to a person who has experienced FDV?
  • How well-equipped are family, friends, and the community in dealing with a perpetrator of FDV?
  • What support do families and friends need to fulfil these social roles in relation to informal FDV responses?
  • What sort of response do family, friends and the community have towards victims and perpetrators of FDV?
  • Are informed responses effective in preventing the re-occurrence of FDV?

About systems and services:
  • How do the responses to FDV vary across jurisdictions?
  • What impact do the various public policy approaches towards FDV have upon outcomes for victims and perpetrators of FDV across jurisdictions?
  • What kinds of services are most effective?
  • To what extent do systems for victims and perpetrators co-refer their clients and/or have formal systems in place to co-ordinate their service delivery?
  • To what extent do these systems share information to ensure victims’ safety and perpetrator accountability?
  • To what degree are system interactions monitored and reviewed to ensure victim safety and perpetrator accountability?
  • Will formal system agencies and services providing responses be able to deal with any increased demand?
  • In what types of cases and what situations does there end up being statutory involvement?
  • What proportion and types of cases end up with Family Law Court proceedings?

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