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Perpetrators and people who use violence priority area

Developing a system-wide approach to keeping perpetrators accountable, connected and responsible for stopping their violence

This priority area focuses on developing a system-wide approach to keeping perpetrators and people who use violence accountable. It also seeks to keep them connected and responsible for stopping their violence.

It acknowledges that every time a person who uses violence interacts with the service system, there is an opportunity to effect behaviour change and intervene. This change is more likely to happen when the government, the broader service system, community and society are working together to prevent violence or intervene early.

The focus for the Rolling Action Plan is to work with sector partners and draw on the experiences of victim survivors, perpetrators and people who use violence to progress reform activities. Activities are grouped under three themes: enhanced service responses, cultural safety and inclusion and enablers.

What has happened

We rapidly addressed the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the family violence sector and delivery of services. This included the establishment of Operation Ribbon and ensuring that family violence court matters were heard online. All urgent and high-risk matters were prioritised through this process. Agencies have adapted the way they work with perpetrators and people who use violence. This includes using telephone-based and online service delivery.

Operation Ribbon and Family Violence Investigation Units

Operation Ribbon was Victoria Police’s pro‑active family violence operation. It was launched to reach out to victim survivors and perpetrators during the COVID‑19 pandemic. This was due to the recognition that victim survivors might find it difficult to report family violence and seek assistance while self‑isolating at home with a perpetrator. Police reached out to victim survivors to check on their safety and wellbeing. They also contacted perpetrators to monitor their behaviour and keep them in view.

At its conclusion in December 2020, Operation Ribbon involved 32,963 contacts with 23,355 affected family members (victim survivors) and 9,608 perpetrators of violence. The 9,608 contacts with perpetrators of family violence led to:

  • the remand of 1,072 individuals, with 470 individuals bailed and 383 summonsed
  • the detection of 5,360 breaches of family violence intervention order offences
  • the detection of 3,014 other family violence offences.

Since Operation Ribbon ceased, the lessons learned have seen specialist Family Violence Investigation Units investigators continue to actively engage with high-risk victim survivors and perpetrators. They also liaise closely with partner services in line with management plans, to monitor safety and compliance. This type of sustained proactive engagement is important and will continue within Victoria Police as a model of family violence management.

    • A new pilot, the Integrated Counselling and Case Management program, has been implemented at the Ballarat Specialist Family Violence Court. The program addresses the complex interplay between family violence, alcohol and other drugs and/or mental health issues. The program enables greater opportunities to tailor responses through integrated case management. It also provides counselling services for eligible clients ordered to attend a Men’s Behaviour Change Program.

    Court Mandated Counselling Order Program

    The Court Mandated Counselling Order Program has been implemented at all Specialist Family Violence Courts. It will be extended to other headquarter courts.

    Robert* turned his life around with the support of the Court Mandated Counselling Order Program, changing his behaviour to be a better partner and father for his kids.

    In April 2016, prior to the implementation of the Specialist Family Violence Courts Division, Robert was a respondent to a family violence intervention order. He was directed to attend a Men's Behaviour Change Program but unfortunately failed out of the program twice due to poor attendance and was sent back to court.

    When Robert returned to court, his hearing took place in a new Specialist Family Violence Court. Robert asked the magistrate for another chance and promised to turn his life around to have a healthier relationship with his partner and family. The magistrate ordered him to participate in the new Court Mandated Counselling Order Program.

    With the significant support and case management provided, Robert successfully completed the program. Robert wrote a letter to thank the magistrate and court staff who had given him another chance and who had supported him to change his behaviour and become a better partner and better father to his kids.

    *Names have been changed

    • Two initiatives that aim to broaden the range and reach of perpetrator interventions have been implemented –
      • Case management provides a tailored service response through the coordination of specialist services. These include mental health, alcohol and other drug, and housing services. The service assists in engagement with programs that aim to stop family violence, such as Men's Behaviour Change Programs. Brokerage funding can be used to provide practical assistance to perpetrators to decrease risk for victim survivors.
      • Perpetrator cohort interventions continue to build the evidence for trauma-informed practice. This includes the development of new interventions for perpetrators from diverse backgrounds and with complex needs.
      • Family safety contact is a part of all perpetrator interventions that provides support to current or previous victim survivors, is also being delivered.

    We have implemented perpetrator accommodation initiatives to enable victim survivors to remain at home when it is safe to do so.

    Housing priority area

    • Through the meeting of Attorneys-General, Victoria is working with the Commonwealth and all states and territories to develop national principles on coercive controlExternal Link . The national principles will enable a high-level shared understanding of coercive control across jurisdictions. This will inform system responses to coercive control.
    • Work has commenced to inform a discussion paper for stakeholder consultations on peer navigation and specialist family violence navigator models for perpetrator interventions. Early research has highlighted key benefits. These models could support perpetrators to better understand the family violence system. In addition it could support them to have greater compliance with orders, increased attendance at court and enhanced behaviour change outcomes.
    • We established the Expert Advisory Committee on Perpetrator Interventions. It delivered its final report on ensuring the diversity of programs, services and initiatives that respond to perpetrators of family violence in Victoria. The Committee’s recommendations have been adopted through the whole of Victorian Government approach to perpetrator accountability outlined in the Rolling Action Plan.
    • An evaluation of the implementation and effectiveness of the Koori Family Violence and Intervention Order Breaches pilot in Mildura is currently under way.
    • Tuning into Respectful Relationships is a culturally inclusive program suitable for remand and short sentence prisoners. In 2020 and 2021, it has expanded to be run at an additional nine prisons. This means it is available in 11 of 13 public Victorian prisons.
    • The development of Inclusion and Equity Blueprints has commenced. These include perpetrator intervention activities. Work is under way to implement the first blueprint. This provides a foundation for system and organisational change. This will ensure everyone has equitable and inclusive access to family violence services, no matter who they are or where they turn to for help.
    • Common clients are people who interact with multiple services across mental health, drug and alcohol, child protection and the criminal justice system. We recognise that many perpetrators of family violence may be common clients. The Better, Connected Care reform will deliver greater service integration for common clients. This will occur through new service delivery models, systems reform, changing our workforces’ practice and embedding client voice and self-determination. This includes the statewide rollout of local governance sites. This will create opportunities for more targeted efforts for priority cohorts.
    • We have commenced a review of Family Violence Perpetrator Interventions in the justice setting. This will be used to improve the responsiveness of perpetrator interventions to the unique needs of the diverse perpetrator cohort.
    • We have continued to embed the family violence and child information sharing and MARAM reforms. This has included guides for working with people who use violence. These have been released for those who do not primarily deal with family violence as part of their service provision, but will encounter it and need to know how to respond. Early change management and embedding activities are under way. Grants have been provided to organisations in multicultural services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and peak bodies representing core services to continue to embed the information sharing schemes and MARAM.

    Information sharing and MARAM reform

    • MARAM Practice Guides and tools for adults using family violence have been released to support non-specialist workforces. These support consistent identification, assessment and management of perpetrators of family violence. They contribute to a shared understanding of key issues and practice concepts. These include drivers, coercive control, predominant aggressor identification, and using an intersectional lens when working with people using family violence. The guidance and tools prioritise safety of victim survivors. They also focus on connecting people using family violence to relevant supports to promote behaviour change.
    • Our commitment to building our understanding about perpetrator characteristics and service use has continued. The Crime Statistics AgencyExternal Link released the paper Finding typologies of family violence perpetrators using police recordsExternal Link . Key findings can be found on their website. The paper noted that seven distinct ‘types’ of family violence perpetrators can be identified using police records. These include four groups who perpetrated violence against their intimate partner and three groups who perpetrated violence against another type of family member (not against an intimate partner). It also noted differences between groups. These were in terms of their demographic characteristics, risk factors identified by police, frequency of family violence perpetration and other offending behaviour.
    • We have begun a review of the actions needed to achieve the outcomes in the perpetrator domain of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework and to identify potential additional measures. This review will support the design and delivery of more effective perpetrator interventions to promote positive behaviour change and accountability.
    • We have commenced a long-term program of work to develop and implement outcomes measurement for funded family violence programs. Services for people using violence, and family violence therapeutic interventions, are being used to develop, test and trial a beginning suite of program outcomes measurement. We have also started planning for a core set of outcomes questions for perpetrator case management, Men's Behaviour Change Programs and post-participation follow up. These will build on questions developed as part of evaluation of case management and cohort trials.

What is next

Most of the activities and initiatives in this priority area will continue into 2022:

  • Magistrates at headquarter courts will be able to mandate that perpetrators attend a counselling program.
  • Continued implementation of additional Specialist Family Violence Courts with another seven courts identified with funding through the 2021–22 state budget.
  • Continued delivery of Tuning into Respectful Relationships. This is a culturally inclusive program suitable for remand and short sentence prisoners. It will be delivered in almost all Victorian prisons.
  • Implementing post-participation follow up for perpetrators who have engaged with Men's Behaviour Change Programs. This will provide an opportunity to:
    • support and reinforce behaviour change and accountability
    • monitor and manage risk to victim survivors
    • better understand the trajectory towards positive behaviour change.
  • Continued development and implementation of client outcomes measurement and monitoring for perpetrator interventions, building on approaches currently being trialled.
  • Finalisation of the measures for the perpetrator outcomes and indicators to support the perpetrator domain of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework.

What this means for outcomes

  • Activities delivered under this priority area focus on working with perpetrators with the intent to increase the safety of victim survivors. Activities such as Operation Ribbon and the Victoria Police specialist Family Violence Investigation Units actively engage with both perpetrators but also high-risk victim survivors. These activities have a focus on monitoring safety. They contribute to our ability to intervene early and to prevent escalation to keep victim survivors safe and to reduce harm from family violence.

  • We will continue to work with perpetrators and people who use violence to change their understanding of family violence, their attitudes and ultimately support them to hold themselves accountable. This type of behaviour change requires significant commitment both from the perpetrator and the support services. There is no single activity or intervention that will work for all individuals. Our activities in this priority area use different models, approaches and programs (such as Men’s Behaviour Change Programs and individual case management approach). We also continue to research and pilot new approaches (such as the Integrated Counselling and Case Management pilot and research into peer navigation models). We provide perpetrators with different ways to engage. This creates opportunities to help them hold themselves to account for their behaviour, which ultimately contributes to a reduction in family violence behaviours.

  • Building our evidence base and understanding of who we are working with supports us in the development of a family violence system that is person-centred and responsive. The implementation of the MARAM Framework and training supports a strengthened workforce and improves service delivery. It supports improved family violence and child information sharing arrangements. It also supports processes and practices that create a more integrated family violence system. This addresses the needs of perpetrators and people who use violence.

Reviewed 14 April 2022

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