Impact news: evaluation leads to improvements to domestic violence risk assessment tools

Systems change is often much slower and less linear than any of us would wish it to be. But positive steps in the right direction are also often cumulative. It has been fantastic to see efforts being made in policy and legislation in the past few years to address complexities and gaps in the domestic and family violence response systems. The work of evaluating such systems can often be confronting, challenging and sometimes downright heartbreaking. But, we are proud to have the opportunity to do this work, knowing that through listening to victim survivors’ stories, interviewing perpetrators and consulting with emergency responders and criminal justice sector stakeholders,  we can provide insights that contribute to meaningful and positive changes to the interactions victim survivors have with response systems.

In 2019, ARTD completed the evaluation of Safer Pathway, a key element of the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Blueprint Reform. It is a system-wide reform designed to provide a streamlined and coordinated way for all victims of domestic and family violence  in NSW to receive services and support to secure their immediate safety and recovery. ARTD partnered with The Northern Institute (Charles Darwin University) to conduct a realist evaluation of Safer Pathway aimed at identifying opportunities for improvement and examining whether it was meeting its intended objectives.

Within this piece of work, ARTD also assessed the reliability, validity and use of the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT)—a risk assessment tool introduced alongside the Safer Pathway processes.

We are pleased to see our evaluation report referenced in Chapter 8 of the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team Report 2019-2021 (published 2022), and to learn of the progress made in implementing our recommendations. These included revisions of the DVSAT to ensure it is administered more reliably, and to also enhance its predictive ability in assessing the likelihood of further aggression by a perpetrator. Both the police and non-police DVSAT tools are currently undergoing redesign.

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