Help NSW DV perpetrators to change: report

November 29, 2022 01:35 PM AEDT | By AAPNEWS
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Domestic violence offenders in NSW should be seen as "unique individuals" and offered support services straight after their first attack, in a bid to prevent them reoffending, a new report says.

A significant amount of domestic violence happens shortly after the first offence, the Reducing Domestic Violence Reoffending report released on Wednesday says.

"It is precisely during this window – prior to conviction – that suitable interventions are difficult to configure and execute," the report said.

The "concrete needs and circumstances of the perpetrator" should be engaged with, in the hopes of having them build accountability over why they chose violence, the report said.

This has to occur at the same time as risks of further harm are also being minimised, the report, developed to inform future NSW policy making, said.

"Perpetrators must be seen as unique individuals with diverse characteristics and numerous factors exacerbating their choices to use violence.

"Their circumstances (and those of their victim and family) need to be quickly assessed by a range of relevant stakeholders – justice workers, service providers, social workers, community representatives – to understand their needs."

The report acknowledged the major barrier to this approach was that many perpetrators refuse to admit fault and cannot be forced to participate in any programs until convicted by a court.

"The system needs to find ways to motivate perpetrators to seek help," the report said, adding perpetrators could be leveraged by other factors, including a desire to be a better parent.

Empowering community-based social workers could help as people who engage directly with perpetrators are likely to understand what motivates them.

Currently there are few options that hold perpetrators accountable, and little availability for men's behavioural change programs that manage risk in the short term.

A policy shift that puts the onus onto perpetrators of domestic violence and away from victims was an important step, Full Stop Australia CEO Hayley Foster said.

"For far too long we have had a really specific focus on victims, and what they can do to better their situation," Ms Foster told AAP.

But she warned against a slippery slope of attempting to appeal to perpetrator's empathies, as opposed to providing real word consequences and outcomes.

"To some extent, you can't just try to encourage someone to just be nice," she said.

"Somebody that's using those behaviours in their relationship - they're doing it to get a particular outcome.

"Would most people feel okay about using their tax dollars providing wraparound services to perpetrators who aren't compelled, or don't have any accountability about whether they actually stop the behaviour?"

The report was released by the James Martin Institute for Public Policy which worked with the NSW government and a panel of experts, analysing case studies from Victoria, Queensland, New Zealand and Scotland.

Five key considerations when designing programs to reduce domestic violence reoffending in the first three months:

* Provide the perpetrator with "wraparound services" including accommodation so responses can be tailored, to enhance accountability

* Empower community representatives and social workers familiar with perpetrator's needs to tailor responses

* Offer support to domestic violence perpetrators to change their behaviour

* Connect services for victim-survivors and specific children's services to perpetrator interventions

* Monitoring domestic violence deterrence programs to see if they work within NSW

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