Lessons Learnt From Tragedies: Risk Assessment as a Step to Preventing Domestic Homicides Peter G. Jaffe, Ph.D., C.Psych. Professor, University of Western Ontario Academic Director, Centre for Research on Violence Against Women & Children London CAS Conference: London Convention Centre November 2, 2006 Purpose of DVDRC Office of the Chief Coroner “We speak for the dead to protect the living” Interdisciplinary review all intimate partner homicides (no outstanding court proceedings) Identify systemic issues, gaps and shortcomings Identify trends, risk factors and patterns Increase understanding and awareness Promote harm reduction & prevention Are DV Homicides Predictable & Preventable? 22 out of 34 cases (65%) had at least 7 risk markers Critical information held by family, work colleagues, front-line professionals Children are the victims in a number of ways Critical need to collaborate between child protection and VAW services as well as criminal and family court Assessing Lethality Separation is the most dangerous period for abused women Threats of homicide or suicide Fantasies of homicide or suicide Depression Access to weapons Obsessiveness about partner or family Centrality of battered partner to batterers’ view of life Drug or alcohol consumption Escalation of violent behaviour Hostage – taking (Hart, 1990) Danger Assessment Risk Factors Partner used or threatened with a weapon (20.2) Partner threatened to kill woman (14.9) Partner tried to choke/strangle woman (9.9) Partner violently and constantly jealous (9.2) Woman forced to have sex when not wanted(7.6) Gun in the house (6.1) Partner controls most/all of woman’s activities(5.1) Drunk every day (or almost) or illicit drugs (4.1) Campbell (2003) Limits and Benefits of Risk Assessment Limitations Benefits Retrospective rather Development of common than prospective studies language across systems Propensity towards Assists in the prioritization “false positives” of limited resources Risk is dynamic rather Assists with safety planning than static strategies - may saves lives Can a perpetrator of domestic violence be a good parent? National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: A Model State Code In every proceeding where there is at issue a dispute as to the custody of a child, a determination by a court that domestic violence or family violence has occurred raises a rebuttable presumption that it is detrimental to the child and not in the best interest of the child to be placed in sole custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical custody with the perpetrator of family violence (Sec. 401) Common Stages of Responses to DV in Child Custody and Visitation Disputes It didn’t happen It happened but it wasn’t that bad It happened and it was bad, but is it relevant? It happened, it was bad, it is relevant; but get on with your life Why is Domestic Violence Relevant in Custody Disputes? Abuse Does Not End With Separation Overlap Between Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Children’s Exposure to an Inappropriate Role Model Undermining of Non-Abusive Parent New Relationships Potentially Violent Perpetual Litigation as Form of On-Going Control Extreme Cases - Homicides and Abductions Jaffe, P.G. Lemon, N. & Poisson, S.E. (2002) Child Custody Disputes and Domestic Violence: Clinical and Legal Issues. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA Critical Issues in Coordination Access to services (barriers) Sequencing of services (court vs community) Interagency cooperation, communication, formal protocols Responsibility for determination of: • Level of need/services (assessment) • Monitoring safety & progress • Accountability for service providers Overall community coordination of services Parenting Arrangements after Violence Co-parenting Common Couple Aggression / No Low child maltreatment Parallel Parenting Evaluated Risk to Children or Caregiver High Conflict Supervised Nature, Frequency Exchange & Severity of Family Violence Supervised Visits Abuse (Child or Adult Partner) High Battering No Visitation Terrorism/ Stalking Parenting Arrangements after Violence Accessible, Co-parenting appropriate interventions for Low victims, perpetrators, and Evaluated Risk to Children or Caregiver Parallel Parenting child witnesses Supervised Resources Exchange Available Supervised Visits Services not accessible or inappropriate High Systemic barriers No Visitation (e.g., poverty, language) Parenting Arrangements after Violence Longer term planning; Co-parenting Adequate Low information to evaluate safety of children and Evaluated Risk to Children or Caregiver Parallel Parenting adults Timing of Supervised Disclosure / Stage Exchange of Proceedings Supervised Visits Interim Hearings; Family in crisis; Red Flags for Lethality; High Continue Exposure No Visitation to Violence Parenting Arrangements after Violence Accessible, Longer term Common Couple planning; Co-parenting appropriate Aggression / No interventions for Adequate Low child maltreatment victims, information to perpetrators, and evaluate safety of High Conflict children and Parallel Parenting Evaluated Risk to Children or Caregiver child witnesses adults Nature, Frequency Timing of Supervised Resources Disclosure / Stage & Severity of Exchange Available of Proceedings Family Violence Supervised Visits Abuse (Child or Services not Interim Hearings; Adult Partner) accessible or Family in crisis; inappropriate Red Flags for Battering High Lethality; Systemic barriers Continue Exposure No Visitation Terrorism/ (e.g., poverty, to Violence Stalking language) The Gap between Theory & Practice Training Standards Expectations Legislation Resources Genuine Collaboration (Common Risk Assessment) Community & Case Leadership One Family – One Judge?
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