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Risk of re-assault

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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Indicators for future domestic violence have been identified by various instruments, which include (Logar, et. al., 2006 Part II):

  • Previous violence against the partner and any children or other family members.
  • Women who are in the process of separating or recently have separated from their partner are at much higher risk for future abuse. The majority of serious and fatal domestic violence incidents are committed when women attempt to leave the abusive relationship, especially within the first three months of her departure.
  • Men who have committed frequent and severe acts of violence are particularly likely to re-offend.
  • Men who have perpetrated violence against former partners or other family members are often violent with subsequent partners.
  • Acts of violence outside the family. The majority of perpetrators commit abuse solely within the family. However, where violence also occurs outside the family, there is a higher tendency toward use of violence within the home.
  • Possession and use of weapons increases the risk of acts of armed violence. The risk is particularly high if the individual has previously used such weapons during previous acts of violence, or has threatened to use weapons in the past.
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs.
  • Threats (including general threats of intent to harm and threats of murder or coercion). Severe violence is often preceded by threats, making them an important risk indicator.
  • Threats of suicide, and depression. Suicidal ideation and depression further alters the perspective of abusers, increasing their risk for violence.
  • Extreme patriarchal attitudes, including beliefs and expectations that limit the self-determination and autonomy of women and girls. Risk is particularly high when rigid beliefs and practices related to sexuality or “honour” are prevalent, and women and girls may be subject to violence if they do not follow these practices or are perceived to dishonour the family. For example, abusers who kill or severely injure their partners are often highly possessive and jealous, seeing other men as rivals and acting in a highly controlling manner with their partner.
  • Persecution, psychological terror, stalking. Abusers who do not accept a separation from their partner may try to prevent it by persecuting, terrorizing or stalking their partner. This behaviour presents risk for further acts of violence that may continue for years after separation.
  • Non-compliance with restraining orders or court orders demonstrates a reluctance to acknowledge responsibility for violence and change behaviour, presenting a risk for repeated violence.

Risk assessments focused on the likelihood that a perpetrator will reoffend have been developed, but are often used by police or probation to guide their work with perpetrators.  These are not often administered in a shelter, unless the shelter includes treatment for abusive men.

Example: the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA) developed in the United States consists of a 20-item checklist covering criminal history, psychological functioning and current social adjustment of the offender. Designed to assess the risk of future abuse in adult male offenders (18 and older), SARA is used frequently by professionals such as law enforcement, correctional officers and government agencies, as well as in research projects. It incorporates the evaluators’ professional judgment as part of the assessment, but requires access to police, probation and mental health records, which may not exist for many perpetrators or be available for survivors to access. The tool is also time consuming to complete. Available in English.