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Domestic Violence Prevention:Online Services for Prisoners

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The discussion below pinpoints the issues that are present in the current programs utilised to tackle domestic violence. There is an evident gap between the goals of domestic violence interventions and its practical effects. Thus alternatives such as online counseling must be considered and implemented alongside the current services, in order to bridge the gap for increasing practical effectiveness. 


There are a number of issues identified within Domestic Violence programs.

  1. In a report by the Australian Institute of Criminology, it was found that limited research had been conducted into the efficacy of offender programs in Australia.[1] In contrast, international studies suggested that they are not particularly successful. They claimed that ‘Meta-analytic reviews have concluded that programs typically produce relatively small effect sizes, particularly when victim reports are used as the dependent variable, or when the men are legally mandated to attend’. [2] The Australian Institute of Criminology makes reference to legally mandated courses in Queensland; therefore it is unclear to what extent this argument is relevant to the case of NSW, where these programs are not always mandatory.
  2. Many of the domestic violence offender programs offered by Community Correctives or in partnership with Corrective Services contain exclusionary criteria. The limited effects that mandated counselling has on domestic violence are acknowledged in a report on Model Domestic Violence Laws.[3] The report recommended ‘an integrated community-based intervention program’ as the most effective level of response to the problem of domestic violence, indicating that the mandatory referral of domestic violence perpetrators could be included.[4]

The AIC commented that online services provide greater scope for inmates to opt in whenever they are ready, rather than being compelled to participate in face-to-face programs or when it is being offered, rather than when they feel personally ready to take responsibility for their behaviour and make changes. [5] An online program accessible to prisoners would allow the offence to be treated seriously whilst also allowing for rehabilitation (if the seriousness of the offence warrants incarceration).

[1]Andrew Day, Donna Chung, Patrick O’Leary, Donna Justo, Susan Moore, Ed Carson and Adam Gerace, ‘Integrated responses to domestic violence: Legally mandated intervention programs for male perpetrators’, (2010) 404 Australian Institute of Criminology: Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice 1, 2.


[3] Partnership Against Domestic Violence, Commonwealth of Australia, Model Domestic Violence Laws Report (1999) <http://wesnet.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ xxdomesticreport.pdf>.

[4] Ibid.



Evidence of the effect of programs on recidivism is limited and uncertain. A 2013 US study found that Domestic Violence recidivism was reduced by 33% when offenders engaged in some form of support services.[1]A 2016 Australian study found that among 14,660 offenders of Domestic Violence between 2011 and 2012, 8% reoffended with a Domestic Violence-related offence within two years.[2]A 2016 Australian study found that after a year, 20.3% of offenders given a suspended sentence and 20.3% of people given a prison sentence, committed at least a new domestic violence offence, suggesting that there is no significant distinction on the probability of new offences between suspended and prison sentences.[3] However, this report pinpoints the difficulties of providing statistical evidence in this area, as recidivism may be for a variety of other crimes and domestic violence charges are sporadic.

[1] Washington State Institute for Public Policy, What Works to Reduce Recidivism By Domestic Violence Offenders (2013) <http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/ReportFile/1119/Wsipp_What-Works-to-Reduce-Recidivism-by-Domestic-Violence-Offenders_Full-Report.pdf>.  

[2] NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Assessing the risk of domestic violence recidivism (2016)     <http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/CJB/Report-2016-Assessing-the-risk-of-domestic-violence-recidivism-cbj189.pdf>.

[3] NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Does a prison sentence affect future domestic violence offending? (2016) <http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/CJB/Report-2016-Does-a-prison-sentence-affect-future-domestic-violence-reoffending-cjb190.pdf>. 


There is a growing recognition of the need to engage both victims and perpetrators and provide long-term engagement.[1] However, there seems to be no general consensus as to the effectiveness of Domestic Violence Intervention Programs, due to the fact that there are:

  • Confused and contradictory aims.
  • High attrition rates.
  • High levels of re-assault among participants.
  • Low levels of motivation and readiness – high levels of resistance.
  • After attending programs, perpetrators may commit less physical violence but other forms of abuse may worsen.
  • Focus on men and masculinities can lead to collusion and disempower women.
  • Inappropriate psychological/therapeutic approaches.
  • Cultural explanations of family violence.
  • Programs may not adequately integrate partner contact practice and adjunct services for victims.

Regardless of this, it is strongly emphasised that perpetrators can be assisted in re-shaping their identities to be non-violent individuals, provided that there are appropriate and systematic responses to their attempts; attitudes can be changed, and respectful relationships can be developed between men and women through engagement with perpetrators.

The following points indicate the finding of various studies into the effectiveness of the various support programs currently employed in Australia in an attempt to rehabilitate domestic violence offenders.

[1] Australian Institute of Social Relations, Prevention Strategies: Involving and Engaging Perpetrators (2010) <http://www.avertfamilyviolence.com.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2013/06/Prevention_Strategies.pdf>.


Currently, less than 10% of domestic violence offenders in Australia are getting into men’s behaviour change programs with only 5,000 vacancies each year for behaviour change, despite 70,000 offenders annually on domestic violence protection orders.[1] This indicates that demand for rehabilitative support services considerably outweighs the current supply.

[1] ‘Domestic Violence: Rehabilitation programs for offenders ‘overwhelmed’’, news.com.au (online), 21 November 2015 <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/marriage/rehabilitation-programs-for-domestic-violence-offenders-overwhelmed/news-story/86d4aa2f6c6434bb43e0ed55e9de362c>.


Australia lacks the large-scale criminal justice sponsored and funded service system for perpetrators that is provided in other parts of the world such as the United States and United Kingdom, and lacks consistency in its service and operational designs for perpetrators.[1]

[1] The Family Violence Prevention Foundation of Australia, An Evaluation of Interventions with Domestic Violence Perpetrators (2009) <https://www.lifeworks.com.au/files/ResearchReport_FV.pdf>.

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