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Data collection standards - Family violence data items

Introduces a set of family violence data items that are intended to support consistent recording of core information concerning family violence.

The RCFV identified a range of gaps in family violence data and in systems for comprehensively recording and assessing data. Some of these gaps stem from under-recording and hidden reporting of family violence, and others from limited demographic information and inconsistent definitions in collecting data. This section introduces a set of family violence data items that are intended to support consistent recording of core information concerning family violence. This includes the type of family violence, the relationships between the person using family violence and those affected by it (namely, nature of the familial relationship), and whether the person accessing the service at a particular point in time is identified as the victim or perpetrator of family violence.

The questions and responses included in this section are not intended to function as a check-list to determine whether or not an incident constitutes family violence. Nor are they intended to assist staff in identifying if a client is at risk of family violence. Their purpose is to operate as a defined set of data items that will support greater consistency in recording information about family violence in administrative data.

A range of work is underway as part of the Victorian Government family violence reforms to support organisations and practitioners to better understand, identify and respond to family violence. This includes workforce training and development activities detailed within Building from Strength and within the Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework. The Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM) provides tools and guidance for organisations and professionals on how to identify and assess family violence and risk; and how to respond within their legal obligations. MARAM provides evidence-based family violence risk factors, and questions to support identification and assessment of family violence risk, and is a useful references for departments, agencies and service providers on best practice standards for identifying and responding to family violence risk.

Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework

The Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework has been established in law under a new Part 11 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic). This requires organisations that are prescribed through regulations, as well as organisations providing funded services relevant to family violence risk assessment and management, to align their policies, procedures, practice guidance and tools to the MARAM Framework.

The MARAM Framework provides policy guidance to organisations prescribed under regulations that have responsibilities in assessing and managing family violence risk. It provides support to organisations and professionals to recognise a wider range of presentations of risk for children, older people and diverse communities, across identities, family and relationship types and will keep perpetrators in view and hold them accountable for their actions and behaviours.

Under MARAM:

  • all parts of the service system will have a shared understanding of risk assessment and management
  • professionals will have the skills and a framework to guide appropriate risk management action
  • there is a clear understanding of the responsibilities of other parts of the system to coordinate and implement safety and accountability planning
  • there is a requirement for consistent data collection to strengthen evidence on family violence risk and risk management

Terminology and definitions

Defining family violence

Family violence is behaviour that controls or dominates a family member and causes them to fear for their own or another person’s safety or wellbeing and includes exposing a child to these behaviours. Family violence presents across a spectrum of risk severity, from subtle exploitation of power imbalances, through to escalating patterns of abuse over time.

The Victorian Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (FVPA) uses broad definitions of family violence and ‘family’ or ‘family-like’ relationships.

Definition of family violence

The FVPA identifies family violence as –

(1)(a) behaviour by a person towards a family member of that person if that behaviour –

(i) is physically or sexually abusive
(ii) is emotionally or psychologically abusive
(iii) is economically abusive
(iv) is threatening
(v) is coercive
(vi) in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person

(b) behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of behaviour referred to in paragraph (a).23

Examples of family violence that are referred to in the FVPA include:

  • assaulting or causing personal injury to a family member, or threatening to do so
  • sexually assaulting a family member or engaging in another form of sexually coercive behaviour, or threatening to engage in such behaviour
  • intentionally damaging a family member’s property, or threatening to do so
  • unlawfully depriving a family member of their liberty or threatening to do so
  • causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the family member to whom the behaviour is directed, so as to control, dominate or coerce the family member.

Family violence is much broader than the physical component that is commonly associated with the term. It is vital that organisations working with clients affected by family violence understand all the types of violence experienced by their clients. This is particularly important for abuse which is harder to recognise, including controlling behaviours, isolation, sexual assault, financial, emotional and spiritual abuse. Acts of family violence may constitute a range of criminal or civil offences. The MARAM Framework outlines all family violence risk factors, which individually or in combination are used to identify the presence of family violence risk. MARAM risk factors are the basis upon which family violence risk is assessed in Victoria. The MARAM risk factors can be categorised into the forms of violence in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (outlined above) and which relate broadly to the data items listed below. There are other forms of family violence which are not included in the brief examples below, such as stalking (including through use of technology or social media) and theft.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse refers to abuse involving the use of physical force against another person. Physically abusive behaviours can include shoving, hitting, slapping, shaking, throwing, punching, biting, burning, strangling or poisoning, including use of weapons or objects to cause physical harm.24 It can also include lack of consideration for a victim’s physical comfort or safety (such as dangerous driving). Some acts are physically abusive even if they do not result in physical injury.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse refers to forcing a person to engage in sexual activity.25 Sexual abuse can include rape, forcing a person to perform sexual acts, causing a person pain during sex without their consent, and forcing a person to watch pornography. Being pressured to agree to sex, unwanted touching of sexual or private parts, causing injury to the victim’s sexual organs are all examples of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse includes sexualised behaviours towards an adult or child, such as talking in a sexually explicit way, sending sexual messages or emails, exposing to sexual acts, having a person pose or perform in a sexual manner when they do not want to, or are unable to consent to do so.

Emotional / psychological abuse

The FVPA defines emotional or psychological abuse as a behaviour that torments, intimidates, harasses or is offensive to another person. Emotional abuse refers to ‘abuse that occurs when a person is subjected to behaviours or action (often repeatedly) aimed at preventing or controlling their behaviour, with the intent to cause them emotional harm or harm through manipulation, isolation or intimidation.26 Any form of behavior that deliberately undermines the victims confidence, acts to humiliate, degrade or demean the victim. This includes threats to the person or their friends or family, or for a perpetrator to threaten to commit suicide or self harm. Silence and withdrawal are also means of abuse.

Emotional abuse may be verbal or non-verbal. Forms of emotional abuse include, but are not limited to, verbal abuse or insults, including racial, homophobic and transphobic taunts, restricting a person’s freedom, threatening deportation or to withdraw support for immigration applications, threatening to report a person to Centrelink or other authority, threatening to disclose a person’s sexual orientation against their wishes, isolating someone from their family and friends or preventing a person from expressing their cultural or spiritual identity, threatening suicide, threatening harm to family members or pets, threatening the loss of custody or access to children, or blaming someone for problems and making them feel guilty. Social, spiritual and cultural abuse are specific kinds of emotional or psychological abuse, and are described in more detail below.

Social abuse

Social abuse is a form of emotional/psychological abuse, however it specifically focuses on creating a sense of social isolation for the victim-survivor. Social abuse is preventing a person from having contact with relatives, friends, service providers and other people, or restricting a person’s activities to increase their sense of social isolation.27 Social abuse can include confining a person to their home or room, preventing a person from answering the phone or door, stalking, intentional embarrassment in front of others, including revenge porn, posting private or sensitive information about a person online without their permission, or threatening to reveal personal details about a person such as their sexual orientation to others. Continually putting friends and family down so the victim is slowly disconnected from their support network, or preventing contact with people who are in a person’s cultural, linguistic, faith or other identity community are forms of social abuse.

Spiritual / cultural abuse

Spiritual or cultural abuse occurs when power and control is used to deny a person their cultural or spiritual rights and needs.28 Like social abuse, spiritual and cultural abuse is as a form of emotional or psychological abuse. It can include using religion or culture as an excuse to commit particular abuse or to justify the behaviour. Other examples of cultural or spiritual abuse include denying access to cultural or spiritual ceremonies or rights, preventing religious observances or practices, forcing religious ways and practices against a person’s own beliefs, and denying a person their cultural heritage. Spiritual and cultural abuse overlap with the concepts of and emotional/psychological abuse, however they are unique by their use of spirituality or culture as a component of the abusive behaviour. Ridiculing or putting down a victim’s beliefs or culture. Preventing them from belonging to or taking part in a group that is important to their spiritual or cultural beliefs, or practicing any faith or religion.

Economic / financial abuse

The FVPA defines economic abuse as, behaviour by a person (the first person) that is coercive, deceptive or unreasonably controls another person (the second person), without the second person’s consent –

(a) in a way that denies the second person the economic or financial autonomy the second person would have had but for that behaviour; or

(b) by withholding or threatening to withhold the financial support necessary for meeting the reasonable living expenses of the second person or the second person’s child, if the second person is entirely or predominantly dependent on the first person for financial support to meet those living expenses.29

Economic abuse can involve a person taking control of all finances, restricting a person from working or spending money or denying access to money (including their own), misusing responsibilities as power of attorney, accessing and using a person’s bank account without their permission, threatening or demanding money from a person, or providing only small amounts of money for a person or family to live on. Economic abuse can also involve exploitation which does not directly involve money, for example taking out a loan under the name of a person without their permission, or threatening to have essential services, such as electricity or gas, disconnected, or leaving victims with unpaid bills for these services. Making significant financial decisions without consulting the victim, selling their possessions, or destroying property can constitute economic abuse. Incurring debts under a victim’s name or on shared property or rental houses, where debt can be incurred by the victim to make repairs.

Threats

Threatening behaviours can cross the spectrum of all other types of family violence, including threats to hurt victims, children or pets, threats to use a weapon, or the withhold a person’s access to financial, social, and spiritual or social support. Threatening behaviours can be seen as a type of emotional or psychological abuse that rely on other types of family violence as a component of the behavior. While in some cases threats may be experienced as other types of abuse (e.g. physical or sexual abuse), they may also be more generally understood as behaviours that are threatening. In some circumstances, where another abuse has occurred, the threat may relate to the abuse re-occurring if the victim does not act or change their behavior as required by the perpetrator. Threats may include the use of weapons or objects as weapons to increase fear. Threats may be verbal or non-verbal.

Coercion

Coercive controlling violence is an ongoing pattern of use of threat, force, emotional abuse and other coercive means to unilaterally dominate a person and induce fear, submission and compliance in them. Its focus is on control, and does not always involve physical harm. Coercion may be experienced by a victim survivor as emotional abuse, however it has an added dimension of domination and control. Controlling behaviours include obsessive jealousy, and can manifest in social and familial isolation and stalking (including monitoring of a victims telecommunication or online social media activities). Examples of these behaviours include dictating what a victim does, who they see or talk to, or where they go This includes preventing a victim from making or retaining friends, communication with family or access to money or essentials. This can include preventing a victim from going to work, not allowing them to express feelings or thoughts, not allowing privacy or forcing them to eat or drink, or limiting access to food or drink.

Exposure to family violence (child)

When defining family violence, the FVPA specifically includes “behaviour by a person that causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of” family violence.30 The category of ‘exposure to family violence’ therefore specifically applies to children and young people who have indirectly been subjected to family violence. This can include witnessing a family violence incident or the aftermath of an incident (for example, a parent with injuries or broken furniture), protecting family members, pets or others during a family violence incident, or feeling unsafe within the home because of family violence.31

Exposure to violence includes direct and indirect impact of family violence and the effects on physical environment or the control of other adult or child family members. Risk of harm may be higher if a perpetrator is targeting certain children, particularly non-biological children or young people in the family. Exposure may be direct and include use of coercive control over the child or young person or physical or sexual violence.

Unborn children can also be impacted by family violence, which may cause premature birth, low birth weight, foetal injury and foetal death. Unborn children may also be impacted by actions taken against their mother, including denial of access to food and antenatal health services. In the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)32, a person may make a report if there is significant concern for the wellbeing of an unborn child.

A child or young person can experience all of the family violence risk factors that an adult can experience. A child or young person may also experience violence when trying to intervene in violence being used against another family member, or through the undermining of a child-parent relationship from a perpetrator, and the subsequent impact on parenting and the child-parent bond. A child or young person who is using aggressive language or behavior may indicate they are being exposed to or are directly experiencing family violence.

Defining family member

Under the FVPA, a family member includes any person who is or has been a spouse or domestic partner, an intimate partner, a relative, a child or young person who normally or regularly resides (or has resided) with the relevant person, or a child of a person who has or has had an intimate personal relationship with the relevant person. For the purposes of the FVPA, a relationship may be considered an intimate personal relationship whether or not it is sexual in nature.

Extended definition of family member

In the FVPA, the term ‘family member’ is defined broadly to include intimate partners, relatives and ‘familial-like’ relationships. Section 3 of the FVPA sets out a range of criteria to assist with determining whether it is reasonable to describe a relationship as ‘like a family member’. The criteria include examining the nature of social and emotional ties, living arrangements, the duration of the relationships and financial dependence or interdependence between the parties.36 Perpetrators of family violence may therefore include not only conventional family relationships, but also caregivers, co-residents and members of extended kinship networks.

It was noted by the RCFV that the extended definition of family member may not be widely known by family violence first responders and service providers. As such, incidents of abuse which meet the criteria for family violence may go unrecognised. This not only impacts the data collected on people affected by family violence, but also the availability of services to them after reporting abuse.

Challenges in current data collection practices

Significant work is underway as part of the family violence reforms to strengthen workforce capacity to identify and respond to family violence. However historically, identifying family violence has not been a core business function of many agencies and services providers who may routinely interact with victims and perpetrators. In addition, staff in mainstream services, such as schools, hospitals and services for the elderly, may not have sufficient training to feel confident to identify family violence, or to recognise family violence that is not intimate partner violence. This can mean a lack of systems and processes to support consistent data collection on family violence. For example, at the time of the RCFV it was noted that the data collected in schools regarding student support services did not routinely flag information as family violence related, and such information would have to be extracted from key words used in case notes.33

In recent years, there has been a push for agencies and services to collect family violence as a ‘flag’, which indicates if a case or record is related to family violence. While this practice is an improvement in collecting information on family violence, it can limit the detail of information collected. How agencies define family violence may be unique to their own internal mandates, funding arrangements and operational purpose, meaning that a family violence flag may not be used consistently across agencies.

Existing standards

Types of family violence

There are limited existing administrative data standards in Australia which are used to record types of violence or abuse in the context of a family violence incident. The national minimum data set for Child Protection records abuse and neglect type (METeOR identifier: 455487) for the most serious type of abuse or neglect that has caused, or is likely to cause, injury or harm to a child or young person. Response options for this standard are:34

Value Meaning
1 Physical abuse
2 Sexual abuse
3 Emotional abuse
4 Neglect

While these responses overlap with many behaviours relevant to family violence, this standard was developed for use specifically in a child protection context, and the scope of the responses is therefore not wide enough to capture all behaviours which meet the definition of family violence.

The Family Services Integrated Reports and Information System (IRIS) Data Dictionary developed by DHHS for the Child Family Information Referral and Support Teams (ChildFIRST) and Integrated Family Services Program contains a standard for recording family violence type, where the options listed include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, economic abuse, and youth family violence to record current or historical family violence experienced by members of a family.35 While the first three options refer to a specific kind of abusive behaviour, ‘youth family violence’ is an option used to capture family violence behaviours which are perpetrated by a young person within the family context.

Relationship types

There are also few existing administrative data standards in Australia which are used to record types of relationships in the context of a family violence incident. The Disability Services National Minimum Data Set includes a data item (METeOR identifier: 680219) for recording the interpersonal relationship of carer to care recipient, however the response values for this data item are limited, and it is designed to capture primarily adult relationships (for example, son-in-law, daughter-in-law).36

The Housing Assistance National Minimum Data Set includes a data item which collects the familial and non-familial relationship of each person in a given household to a designated person in that household (METeOR identifier: 609147). The response options for this data item are also limited, and do not collect familial information outside of spouse/partner and son/daughter.37

The National Coronial Information System (NCIS) has a robust data item concerning ‘perpetrator relationship to deceased’ in their data dictionary.38 This standard contains over 25 different response options for relationship type with accompanying data definitions. It is also uniquely hierarchically structured, so that in the event that more than one relationship category could apply to a perpetrator, coding can reflect the relationship with the highest interpersonal ranking.

Data collection standards for collecting information about family violence

This section introduces three data items to improve the consistency and quality of information collection about family violence. These items are:

  • Type of family violence
  • Type of relationship
  • Role of party

The purpose of these data items is not to set standard definitions for family violence, which are established in the FVPA. Organisations looking for definitional information to support implementation should consult that FVPA, as well as materials develop as part of the family violence reform, including the MARAM framework.

When planning for implementation, government departments, agencies and service providers can consider how the data collection standards detailed here can be applied to or supplement existing data items, such as existing family violence flags. For example, a helpline may already collect some information on the types of violence or abuse that callers have experienced and the framework suggests that the response options for types of violence can be added to the existing data item, rather than creating a second data item.

Types of family violence

Family violence differs from other forms of violence because it is part of a pattern of behavior that controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for their safety or wellbeing or of another person. Data suggests that where physical violence occurs, other noncontact forms of family violence (emotional/psychological abuse, economic abuse, coercion or threats) are also likely to be present. As such, a single incident may not reflect the full range of types of family violence that have been experienced or used.

For this reason, organisations and professionals should recognise that the types of violence recorded at this data item may include those that have not been used in the specific incident that led a victim or perpetrator to seek support. This is particularly relevant if data entry is drawing on information that is gathered through completion of a family violence risk assessment, which includes a range of questions about a person’s historical experiences of family violence. The inclusion of historical information in a client’s administrative record may have implications for data analysis and reporting, in particular if analysis attempts to describe types of family violence that are experienced or used at a specific point in time.

It is recommended that when updating IT systems to include this data item, that the option to record multiple types of family violence is enabled. Collecting information on all forms of identified violence can help build the evidence base on the more concealed types of family violence, and encourage greater recognition of specific types of violence that may be over-represented in priority communities.

Development of the standard

The standard for recording types of family violence proposed within this framework mirrors the categories of violence described in the FVPA. These categories have been assessed for their alignment to the risk factors within the MARAM framework, as well as to existing categories used within the Personal Safety Survey, and the Victorian Population Health survey. This is intended to enable practitioners to draw on information collected through family violence risk assessment when recording data at this item, and will also support aggregation and analysis for research, evaluation and performance monitoring purposes.

Although specific types of family violence have been defined separately under ‘Defining family violence’ on page 26, the categories of emotional, psychological, spiritual and social abuse have been combined into a single response category due to the overlap that exists in their meanings. Child exposure to family violence is specifically identified by the FVPA as a type of family violence, and was therefore identified as a type of family violence which should be captured separately. However it is also important to acknowledge that children and young people are victim survivors in their own right, and that the range of types of family violence they experience should be recorded whenever possible.

Data item and response categories

Forms of family violence identified or disclosed [select all that apply]

□ Physical
□ Sexual
□ Emotional or psychological (inc. spiritual and social)
□ Economic
□ Threats
□ Coercion
□ Exposure to family violence (child)

Relationship between parties

Another important pieces of information that helps understand the nature of family violence is the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator.

Some services and agencies may have a narrowed focus on the different relationships involved in a family violence incident. As previously noted, services who report family violence data to a federal level funding source for specific service provision, for example, may only identify cases as family violence related where the parties involved are intimate partners, or where the victims are women and children. However, the FVPA adopts a broad definition of a family member and that definition is applied here.

The ‘relationship between parties’ asks organisations to record the relationship between two parties involved in family violence. It is important for all organisations to record all familial-like relationships involved in incidents of violence or abuse. This will ensure that data collected in Victoria will contain sufficient detail to identify when incidents of abuse occur within a family or familial-like relationships.

As previously noted in the ‘Types of family violence’ data item, the ongoing nature of family violence may mean that family violence may continue even while relationship status changes. For example, the period of time immediately after a victim leaves a violent intimate partner relationship is acknowledged as a high risk period, and as such, a change in relationship status can signal that a person is at increased risk. It is recommended therefore that the type of family relationship between the victim and the perpetrator is identified and recorded in each instance that a client discloses family violence, including where the relationship is an ‘ex-‘ relationship. Where IT infrastructure allows, it is recommended that the sub-category response options detailed below are used to capture the most detailed information about the relationship involved in the incident.

Development of the standard

The standard for collecting relationship between parties was heavily influenced by the standard used by the NCIS, and by consultation with stakeholders. The resulting data collection standard used in this framework contains both broad and sub-category response options to accommodate agencies and service providers who may have limited capacity to collect against a large list of possible responses. The sub-category response option list has been expanded from what is used by the NCIS to capture more detail about the familial and familial-like relationships involved in family violence. The standard in this framework omits all strictly non-familial relationships (for example, strangers) as these relationships fall outside of the scope of family violence. Data collectors and custodians may however choose to add such response options if they are seeking to capture information on relationships in a broader context than just family violence.

Data item and response categories

What is the party’s relationship to the victim/perpetrator?

□ Current partner □ Spouse
□ De facto
□ Girlfriend/boyfriend/partner
□ Former partner □ Separated/divorced spouse
□ Ex-de facto
□ Ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/partner
□ Parent /
Gaurdian
□ Parent (biological/adoptive)
□ Foster parent/guardian
□ Step-parent/de facto of
parent
□ Partner of parent
□ Child □ Child (biological/adoptive)
□ Foster child/child cared for
□ Step-child
□ Child of partner
□ Sibling □ Sibling (biological/adoptive)
□ Half-sibling
□ Step-sibling
□ Foster-sibling
□ Other family □ Grandparent
□ Grandchild
□ Aunt/uncle
□ Niece/nephew
□ Cousin
□ Child in-law
□ Parent in-law
□ Sibling in-law
□ Other (other family)
□ Familial-like □ Kinship relationship
□ Family of choice
□ Formal/informal carer
□ Person receiving care
□ Co-resident
□ Other familial-like relationship

Guide for use of responses

Parent (biological/adoptive): This category should also be used to record same sex parents, or parents who have used donor assisted conception or surrogacy.

Step-parent/defacto of parent, foster-parent, step-sibling and foster sibling: These categories should also be used to record parents/guardians and siblings who could be considered as ‘ex’.

Child (biological/adoptive): This category should also be used to record children of same sex parents, or children from donor assisted conception or surrogacy.

Grandparent, Grandchild, Aunt/uncle, Niece/nephew, Cousin: These categories include biological, adoptive and step relatives, and should also include relatives that may be considered ‘ex’.

Kinship relationship: A cultural recognition that the relationship was ‘like family’ in the relevant person’s culture or community. In regards to Aboriginal communities, the kinship system is complex and determines how people relate to each other and their roles, responsibilities and obligations in relation to one another, ceremonial business and land.39

Family of choice: People with an LGBTI identity may establish a ‘family of choice’, which is comprised of individuals who are not necessarily biologically related but act as a chosen family for the individual. People may create a family of choice for many reasons including discrimination and rejection from their family of origin, and finding more in common with people who know what it is like to be part of a marginalised group.40 It should also include relationships that could be considered ‘ex-‘.

Use with role of party data item

The relationship data item should be completed from the perspective of the client whose case record is being completed. For the purpose of analysis, relationship data can also be combined with the ‘role of party item’, as well as detail on age, gender and LGBTI identification, to provide more detail on the direction and nature of the relationship. This allocation of specific roles and relationships by family violence is more viable in sophisticated IT systems that support the creation of case records that are distinct from a client record, and that are able to be linked to other case records. This may be particularly relevant in cases that involve multiple victims or perpetrators.

Multiple victims or multiple perpetrators

Family violence events may sometimes involve more than one perpetrator or more than one victim, for instance, where an adolescent uses violence against their mother and their sibling. To accommodate for this complexity, organisations should consider how their data can be structured to capture relationship information between all parties involved in an incident. A best practice approach would be to create a unique case record for each client that enables each relationship and role of party to be recorded, acknowledging that not all IT systems support the grouping of client records into family groups.

Multiple relationship types

The response options above are structured in a hierarchical manner. Although a relationship between two parties may fall into more than one of the below categories, for clarity in the data it is recommended that only one relationship type is recorded between two parties at a single point in time (noting that the relationship status may change over time). The data item selected should represent the relationship at the time of recording. In the event that the relationship could fall into more than one category, the relationship with the highest interpersonal ranking should be selected. For example, if the victim of family violence was a person receiving care and the perpetrator’s biological child, ‘child (biological or adoptive)’ should be selected as the type of relationship.

Role of party

The role of a person during a family violence incident is often not recorded by services outside of police and court systems, where it is necessary to determine who is the perpetrator/respondent or victim/applicant. There are many service entry points which capture information about both victims and perpetrators of family violence, but it is not usually identified in data whether the client is an alleged victim or perpetrator.

As noted in the ‘Terminology’ section of the framework, there are a variety of terms used to differentiate between victims and perpetrators, and no single term will be appropriate for all services. For example, the term perpetrator is not often associated with adolescents who use violence in the home, as it is viewed as stigmatising and does not acknowledge the necessary developmental needs of the adolescent. Services who provide Adolescent Family Violence programs therefore may choose to record their client’s role within a family violence incident as ‘adolescent who uses violence’.

The role of party data item is relevant to a specific family violence incident, as it asks organisations to identify the role of a person during a family violence incident at a given point in time. For this reason, it must be acknowledged that the role of the party may change, which is particularly relevant for adolescents who use violence in the home. The role of party is ideally recorded on a client’s case record, which includes data relevant to a specific incident, as opposed to a more generic client record which holds general demographic data items.

This data item may not always be appropriate to collect directly from a person who was involved in a family violence incident, and organisations need to be cognisant of the challenges involved in identifying the predominant aggressor (discussed below). The ‘unable to be identified’ category has been included to help manage potential misidentification, by providing an alternative option. Use of this category will also assist in generating evidence on the extent to which identification of the role of a party is difficult.

Data item and response categories

Role during family violence incident:

□ Victim
□ Perpetrator
□ Adolescent who uses violence
□ Unable to be determine

Perpetrator/predominant aggressor and misidentification of the role of party

Some perpetrators of family violence report being victim survivors. A perpetrator can overtly present themselves as the victim of the violence to manipulate services, including police, to misidentify the real victim as a perpetrator. Presenting in this way is also consistent with ‘victim stance’ thinking that many perpetrators adopt to justify and excuse their behaviour. Perpetrators may also aim to convince service providers that they are the victim survivor, or use a range of behaviours to avoid or deflect their responsibility for using family violence.

Misidentification may occur where a victim survivor uses self-defence or violent resistance during an incident or series of incidents of family violence. Police or other professionals may misidentify a predominant aggressor (perpetrator) due to misinterpretation of the behaviour or presentation of a victim survivor.

Misidentification may also occur when a perpetrator:

  • falsely accuses a victim survivor of using violence, or misrepresents their self-defence as evidence of violence
  • cites substance abuse by the victim survivor as evidence to support their claim they are a perpetrator
  • undermine a victim survivors presentation or behaviour as resulting from mental illness, or misrepresenting a victim survivor’s disability as drunkenness or being drug affected, minimising their opportunity to have their voice heard. This could be an example of a deliberate misrepresentation of a victim survivor which exacerbates or leverages discriminatory attitudes commonly held in the community about people with, for example, disability or mental illness

This includes where a victim may not be able to communicate effectively with the police or service provider (due to trauma or from pre-existing communication barriers), may be injured, in shock or distraught as a result of the violence, or may be calm or assertive, or may fear reprisals from showing their reaction from the violence.

The inclusion of the ‘unable to be determined’ category is also intended to assist in reducing misidentification within data, however is ideally used as a temporary category. Where a professional is ‘unable to determine’ if an individual is a victim or a perpetrator, they should seek secondary consultation with a specialist family violence service or other professional with authorisation as a Risk Assessment Entity to undertake further enquiry into the identity of ‘alleged perpetrators’ under the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme. The MARAM Framework Practice Guidance provides practice considerations to assist specialist practitioners in determining identity of a perpetrator/predominant aggressor and a victim survivor.


23 Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) s.5(1).
24 Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) 2015, What is child abuse and neglect?, viewed 13 June 2018,
https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/what-is-child-abuse-and-neglect
25 Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA Forum) 2015, What is family violence? [factsheet], Springvale Monash Legal Service Inc, viewed 20 June 2018, www.casa.org.au/survivors-and-friends/family-violence
26 ABS 2014, 4102.0 Australian Social Trends, viewed 13 June 2018, www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0main+features602014
27 Senior Rights Victoria, Social Abuse, viewed 13 June 2018, http://seniorsrights.org.au/your-rights/social-abuse/
28 Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (QLD), Domestic and Family Violence and Its Relationship to Child Protection [Practice paper, October 2012], viewed 6 June 2018, www.dfvbenchbook.aija.org.au/understanding-domestic-and-familyviolence/cultural-and-spiritual-abuse/kl
29 Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) s.6.
30 Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) s.1(b).
31 AIFS 2015, What is child abuse and neglect? viewed 13 June 2018, https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/what-is-child-abuse-andneglect
32 Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic).
33 RCFV 2016, Volume 2 Report and recommendations, p.120.
34 AIHW Metadata Online Registry, Child – primary type of abuse or neglect, code N[N], viewed 12 June 2018,
http://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemld/455487
35 DHHS 2013, Family Services IRIS Data Dictionary, viewed 13 June 2018, providers. dhhs.vic.gov.au/sites/dhhsproviders/files/2017-06/Family-services-IRIS-data-dictionary.docx
36 AIHW Metadata Online Registry, Informal carer – relationship to care recipient, interpersonal code N[N], viewed 12 June 2018,
http://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemld/680219
37 AIHW Metadata Online Registry, Person – relationship to household reference person, code N, viewed 12 June 2018,
http://meteor.aihw.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemld/609147
38 National Coronial Information System 2017, Data Dictionary for the National Coronial Information System Version 3 July 2010 [Revised 13 June 2017], viewed 13 June 2018, www.ncis.org.au/about-the-data/system-manuals/
39 Central Land Council, Kinship and skin names, viewed 20 June 2018, www.clc.org.au/index.php?/
40 QLife 2016, Families: A QLife Guide for Health Professionals, viewed 13 June 2018, https://qlife.org.au/qlife-guides/

Reviewed 08 January 2020

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