Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Victims' Experiences of Shortand Long-Term Safety and Wellbeing: Findings from an Examination of an Integrated Response to Domestic Violence

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Victims' Experiences of Shortand Long-Term Safety and Wellbeing: Findings from an Examination of an Integrated Response to Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

This paper examines victims' short and long-term experiences of safety and wellbeing after being supported through a six week police-led integrated response to domestic violence in Caboolture, Southeast Queensland. The overarching objective of this integrated response was to create safer home environments for women and children affected by domestic violence. The response was run as a pilot project from January 2010 until December 2011 and received subsequent funding for continuation after the initial pilot period. Findings presented in this paper are based on the last six months of the pilot period and illustrate women's perceived safety and wellbeing during and after their initial state of crisis.

Background

Domestic violence is a serious and widespread phenomenon that continues to affect many women and their children in Australia and worldwide (WFIO 2005). Domestic violence has been identified as the leading cause of physical injuries to women of reproductive age and a factor implicated in approximately 60 percent of Australian homicide cases involving a female victim (Shackelford & Mouzos 2005). With most incidents causing injuries being male to female perpetrated, women and their children are the ones suffering the most severe consequences when subjected to domestic violence (ABS 2012; Edleson 1999). In addition to the immediate physical and emotional impact on women and children, domestic violence further imposes an enormous financial burden on individual victims, as well as society at large.

The National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children (the Council) (2009) recently estimated that by 2021, domestic violence would cost Australia close to $1 Ob if left unaddressed. As part of its strategy to reduce violence against women and children in Australia, the Council (NCRVAWC 2009) has highlighted the need for Commonwealth, state and territory governments to implement more specialised and integrated responses to domestic violence to tackle its complex nature effectively. This component of the Australian Government's strategic plan to reduce violence against women and their children follows the examples of a number of international jurisdictions, which have previously piloted and implemented integrated responses to domestic violence (Home Office 1995; Robinson 2006; Sadusky 2003).

The term integrated response is often used arbitrarily and interchangeably with collaborative or coordinated multiagency responses (Wilcox 2010). In the context of this research, it is understood as a partnership response that involves formalised agreements regarding processes, roles, responsibilities and cross-unit accountability. Integrated responses to domestic violence have been identified as good practice models due to their various benefits for those affected by domestic violence, as well as those trying to address the needs of these victims (Hovell, Seid & Liles 2006; NCRVAWC 2009; Robinson 2006) and are increasingly being developed and trialled across states and territories. While some states and territories have implemented statewide integrated systems (eg South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria) others, including Queensland, support more localised integrated response models (ALRC 2010; Wilcox 2010). Benefits associated with integrated responses to domestic violence are multilayered and include more timely responses to victims' needs for support and protection, and a greater emphasis on offender accountability. In addition, integrated responses are designed to offer more streamlined referral processes for agencies providing initial crisis responses (eg law enforcement agencies), intermediate support and protection (eg women shelters) and long-term support for women and children affected by domestic violence (eg specialised counselling services, transitional and long-term housing support services). While these different service providers frequently support victims of domestic violence individually, it is the larger sum of integrated service deliveries that improves outcomes for victims, services and the community at large (NCRVAWC 2009; Robinson 2006; Wilcox 2010). …

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