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Perpetrators are held to account

A man washes the dishes with his wife.

It is as though the perpetrator is pulling the strings and all the scrutiny is on me.

— Victim survivor

We understand there isn’t just one type of person perpetrating family violence. Our system must provide more targeted responses to perpetrators, while keeping the risk of harm to victim survivors at the centre of its approach.

Victim survivors told the Royal Commission that perpetrators can continue to manipulate them by exploiting the system. We need to define roles and responsibilities across all services and make information sharing easier. This will allow us to have coordinated focus on the perpetrator across:

  • police
  • courts
  • corrections
  • legal
  • health
  • social services
  • community agencies.

To hold perpetrators to account, we will deliver the following initiatives.

  • Law reforms: introduce a package of critical law reforms to improve victim safety and perpetrator accountability.
  • Effective interventions: improve the range and availability of perpetrator interventions.
  • Holistic healing approach: change perpetrator behaviour to prevent the escalation or recurrence of family violence.
  • Responses for adolescents: provide therapeutic responses for young people who use family violence.

What is perpetrator accountability?

The concept of perpetrator accountability is broad and includes:

  • understanding and responding to the needs and experiences of victim survivors and their views about the outcomes they want to achieve
  • prioritising women and children’s safety through ongoing risk assessment and management
  • encouraging perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions
  • assisting perpetrators to gain insight and awareness of their actions and change their behaviour
  • having a strong set of laws and legal processes with clear consequences for failure to comply with court orders and sanctions
  • responsibility among government and non-government agencies, the community and individuals for condemning perpetrators’ use of violence and expecting and supporting them to cease being violent.

Law reforms

As a first priority, we will introduce a package of critical law reforms in 2017. This will include amendments to the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 to improve the intervention order process. This amendment will:

  • better protect victim survivors
  • consider appropriate responses for repeated breaches of intervention orders
  • tightening bail processes to the risk of family violence is considered.

Effective interventions

We do not have the range of interventions needed to effectively target perpetrator behaviour. Men’s Behaviour Change Programs have carried the burden of changing a lifetime of attitudes and behaviours in months.

The justice system must play a role in holding perpetrators to account. This will require the police to actively keep the perpetrator in view and consider the level of risk at any time.

For more, read: Effective interventions

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Holistic healing approach

We are developing family-centred healing and dispute resolution approaches to help victim survivors recover.

Holistic healing approaches are particularly important for Aboriginal communities and are already used in Koori Courts. A focus on healing comes from the understanding that Aboriginal male perpetrators have often experienced significant inter-generational trauma.

This approach will be informed by engagement and co-design with:

  • Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum
  • Aboriginal Family Violence Co-design Forum
  • the new Expert Advisory Committee on Perpetrator Interventions.

Responses for adolescents

We need to provide a special therapeutic approach to address the adolescents using family violence. A range of tailored therapeutic programs will be available for those showing early signs of risk.

We are currently running Adolescent Family Violence Programs in:

  • Geelong
  • Ballarat
  • Frankston.

These programs use therapeutic approaches to develop skills and cognitive behavioural strategies. This work can take place in adolescent groups, parent groups or multi-family groups. We are considering this approach as a model for future programs.

We will also trial restorative processes that build on existing models, such as Youth Justice Group Conferencing. This will help us address the issues driving family violence.

It should always be a priority to keep a young person in their home. Where this is not possible, we will develop more supported accommodation options.

Case study: Brendan

Brendan’s partner, Nora, discovers that she is pregnant. This accelerates the pattern of coercion and control that Brendan has been displaying over a long period of time.

In the future, Brendan can expect to be held accountable for his behaviour and experience a coordinated response from the justice system.

For more, read: Brendan's experience