Intimate partner homicide
With about seventy women killed by their partners or ex-partners each year, killing an intimate partner is the most common form of homicide in Australia.
Alarmingly, 2020 may well see that number rise, as self-isolation measures designed to contain COVID-19 are likely to exacerbate abuse and violence against women and their children.
Despite widespread media coverage about this urgent problem and a growing demand for change among the public and policy-makers, we have limited knowledge about the patterns of behaviour leading up to each homicide, or the nature of the relationships between victims and offenders.
In a new collaborative research partnership, ANROWS and the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) will explore these patterns, identifying potential points of intervention, as well as events and behaviours within relationships that could foreshadow fatal outcomes.
“The goal is to be able to describe a common sequence of events, interactions and relationship dynamics in the weeks, days and moments leading up to the homicide,” said Dr Samantha Bricknell, lead researcher from the Australian Institute of Criminology.
By improving our understanding of the trajectories within relationships, this research will help determine potential points of intervention. This information will build on the important work produced by the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Network and by the death review processes in most states and territories, which identify areas for improvement in services and systems’ responses to prevent domestic violence-related deaths.
Researchers will examine data from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Homicide Monitoring Program, looking at relevant homicides that occurred between 2006 and 2018.
“We’re looking for both micro and macro patterns in the data: features that will capture the complex motives, behaviours and events that underlie intimate partner homicide and identify similarities and differences between past cases,” said Dr Bricknell.
“We hope that these indicators may well provide us with a key to recognising when a relationship is likely to be on a path to fatal violence-and offer a practical guide to intervening. Working towards that goal, we can aim to reduce the devastating frequency with which women in Australia die at the hands of their partner or ex-partner.”
Breaches of parenting orders
The new research program will also include a project between ANROWS and the Australian Institute of Family Studies to investigate the enforcement of parenting orders under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).
As the federal parliamentary inquiry into the family law system continues, this research will provide important evidence about how separated couples interact with the court when parenting orders are contravened.
This evidence will provide a baseline from which policy-makers can measure the impact of any future reforms.
“The effectiveness of parenting orders is often mired in claims that they are frequently not complied with,” said Dr Rae Kaspiew, from the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
“This project will create a clearer evidence base to understand why people fail to comply with parenting orders.”
“We also want to know how frequently allegations of family violence and sexual abuse are raised to justify breaches of parenting orders. And when there are allegations of violence involved in contravention matters, what proportion are sought to be enforced by mothers as compared to fathers?”
“This research will seek some answers.”
The project will be based on several elements, including analysis of contravention matters. The researchers will also survey separated parents who have obtained parenting orders in the last five years and survey professionals working in and with the family law system.
Fourth Action Plan to reduce violence against women and their children
These two studies will form part of a new program of research led by ANROWS under the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 and funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.
ANROWS CEO, Dr Heather Nancarrow, emphasised the importance of both these research projects in addressing crucial gaps in our understanding of domestic and family violence.
“These programs under the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan will have important implications for policy-making,” said Dr Nancarrow.
“As we move through a period of uncertainty and elevated risk of violence, we should be reaching more than ever for the evidence to guide us.”