Aims: The primary aim was to see whether the Safer Pathway program is more effective in reducing domestic violence related offences (e.g. physical assault, threats of physical assault, intimidation) than the conventional response to such offences. The secondary aim was to describe key features of the program’s operation and the response of domestic violence victims to the services provided.
Methods: Structured telephone interviews were conducted with two groups of female victims of domestic or family violence who NSW police officers had assessed (via the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool, DVSAT) as being ‘at serious threat’ of future harm or violence – an intervention group of 69 women from the nine Police Local Area Commands (LACs) where all the elements of the Safer Pathway program have been implemented and a comparison group of 61 women from nine LACs where only some of the elements of the Safer Pathway program are operating. The LACs were matched on a number of relevant criteria. The impact of the program was assessed in a repeated measures design. Each woman was interviewed on two occasions regarding her experiences of various proscribed behaviours in two four-week reference periods – prior to the index incident at which the DVSAT was administered and after the program’s case co-ordination processes/a comparable period for the comparison group. To assess their response to the program’s operation and service provision, victims were asked how well informed they were about the program, how they were treated by service providers and how they felt about various aspects of the program.
Results: Most of the women interviewed in both the intervention and the comparison groups experienced a reduction in the proscribed behaviours over time. However, the reduction was no greater for the intervention group than for the comparison group. Victims in both the intervention and the comparison groups were treated equally well by the various authorities. About nine in ten victims in each group reported being treated ‘respectfully’ or ‘very respectfully’ by the police officer when asked the DVSAT questions. After the case co-ordination processes/a comparable period for the comparison group, services had initiated contact with 59.4 per cent of victims in the intervention group and 49.2 per cent of victims in the comparison group. Most victims reported that there was nothing they disliked about the support they received from the various services. The vast majority of victims in the intervention group reported that they would suggest that others in a similar situation agree to being referred to a Safety Action Meeting.
Conclusions: Providing case co-ordination processes via the Safer Pathway program to female victims ‘at serious threat’ of future harm in the intervention group does not result in a significantly greater reduction in proscribed behaviours compared to the conventional response to these offences. Some procedures of the program may require refinement.