Solution to DV victims determined to be at serious risk of future harm? Stop assessing the threat

Over 20,000 victims of domestic violence were still found to be “at serious threat of future harm” in just 12 months in NSW.

Three or more prior DV incidents automatically classified the victim at serious threat of future harm and triggered a Safety Action Meeting (SAM) that would put them in touch with people who could help.

After only six months this trigger was creating too many meetings and there weren’t enough resources for them all.

The solution? Urgent funding for more resources? Crisis meetings with government to find answers? Desperate concern about thousands of people in danger and wide spread public response?

No. They removed the “3 or more” trigger.

The BOCSAR report states that “Early evidence suggests that this change has resulted in a dramatic reduction in serious threat referrals to SAMs.”

WTF? Three or more prior incidents of domestic violence was included as a trigger because, as anyone with basic common sense can understand, if it’s happened several times before it’s very likely to happen again.

The trigger wasn’t removed because it wasn’t working, it was removed because it was working too well and there just aren’t enough resources to help everyone who needs it.

This is not a problem with NSW Police, or the questionnaire they were using, or the data reported. It’s clearly and solely a problem of inadequate resources. And the solution to that is not to stop asking questions or providing help. It’s asking more questions and providing more help.

The data

NSW police asked 61,539 victims of intimate partner violence in the 12 months to July 2016 a series of questions:

  • More than 16,000 said their partner had threatened to harm or kill them
  • More than 6,5000 said their partner had attempted to choke or strangle them
  • More than 21,000 said their partner had been physically violent
  • More than 5,000 said their partner had assaulted them with a weapon
  • More than 20,000 said their partner was jealous or controlling and more than 16,000 said it was getting worse.

NSW police have been diligent in asking these questions, recording the answers, and using their professional judgement to determine the level of threat when people were too scared to answer. Between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 people who couldn’t or wouldn’t answer were assesed as being at serious threat of future harm.

Earlier this week I wrote about the insanely disproportionate amount of money spent on national security vs domestic violence ($53 billion per person affected by terrorism and $55 per woman affected by male violence)

If anyone was wondering about proof that lack of resources is putting lives and futures at risk, this report is it.