Police launch tool to predict domestic violence

A tool which predicts the likelihood of re-assault in relationships will become a key part of the New Zealand Police’s response to family violence this year.

As many as 39% of New Zealand women suffer physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a study by Janet Fanslow and Elizabeth Robinson.

Police are called once every seven minutes,  or around 200 domestic violence situations a day, according to Women’s Refugee Group. On average 14 women, six men and 10 children are killed by a member of their family every year, in a small country like New Zealand with 4 million population.

It is little wonder that the NZ Police are working on a tool (The Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) tool)  which takes an evidence-based approach to information-gathering.

NZ Police develop a tool to predict family violence (Photo: Senior Constable Fiona Foxall)

“We want more focus on families suffering the most serious violence and those we believe are at risk of escalating violence,” says

Commissioner Peter Marshall in at interview to Police magazine Ten One.

“Good risk assessment is vital if we are to make sound decisions that will disrupt the family violence cycle and help us better protect victims and children in their care from further harm.”

ODARA is an internationally recognised tool that was developed to predict re-assault in intimate partner relationships including dating violence, male on female violence and female on male.

“We believe it’s the best fit for New Zealand Police,” says Marshall. “The information it generates can be used in evidence and will support the prevention of family violence.”

But the tool is not just about violence against partners. In around 70% of cases where there’s abuse between adult partners, there is also child abuse and neglect.

Police have developed a risk factor form specifically for children in homes where violence is occurring; the commissioner believes New Zealand is the first country in the world to develop the Child Risk Factor form (CRF).

The CRF will help staff identify children potentially most at risk and to pass this information onto those who will work with the family to better protect them.

New Zealand police have also increased their resources:  there were just seven family violence coordinators in 2007; now there’s one in every police area.

Family violence is a growing cause for concern among Asian communities, according to a study by the Ministry of Social Development. The study found the triggers for family violence related to difficulties in adjusting to living in a new country, finding suitable employment and experiencing financial hardship.

“Men’s dominance in some Asian families was an issue, especially when men saw control over their wives as a last resort to protect their cultural values and traditions,” says the study.

“The racism and discrimination some women experienced in this study, when they attempted to find paid jobs or solve their financial dependency issues, put women at extreme risk of abuse and violence.

“The barriers to preventing or dealing with family violence related to perceptions in the Asian communities researched that family violence is a private matter, and to the women’s desire to keep the marriage/relationship intact and limited responsiveness.” Police estimate only 18% of domestic violence incidents are reported.

Concerning facts: family violence

84% of those arrested for domestic violence are men; 16% are women.

The economic cost of domestic violence was estimated at $1.2 billion to $5.8 billion per year by economist Suzanne Snively in 1996. In today’s figures, that would be up to $8 billion.

In the 2009/10 year there were 3,867 domestic violence cases in the Family Court which each involved at least one child.

(Source: Women’s Refuge)


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