​Safer Pathway Program: Victim experiences

Full report: Outcome evaluation of NSW’s Safer Pathway Program: Victims’ Experiences (pdf 706Kb)

Release date: 10.30am Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The first evaluation of the effect of the new Safer Pathway program on the safety of victims of domestic violence has shown mixed results, according to a new report released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

  1. The key features of the new Safer Pathway program are:
    Use of a Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT) to better and consistently identify the level of domestic violence threat to victims
  2. A Central Referral Point to electronically manage and monitor referrals
  3. A state-wide network of Local Coordination Points (LCPs) that facilitate local responses and provide victims with case coordination and support
  4. Safety Action Meetings (SAMs) in which members develop plans for victims at serious threat of death, disability or injury as a result of domestic and family violence
  5. Legislation that allows service providers to share information about victims and perpetrators so that victims do not have to retell their story multiple times, to hold perpetrators accountable and promote an integrated response for victims at serious threat.

To evaluate the impact of the program on victim safety, the Bureau interviewed two groups of women. The first (intervention) group was drawn from nine Local Area Commands (LACs) where all five elements of the program had been implemented.

The second (comparison) group was drawn from nine LACs where there were no LCPs or Safety Action Meetings but where other elements of the program were operating, including referral to existing specialist support for domestic violence victims.

Victims in both the intervention and comparison groups were asked about their experiences of various proscribed behaviours, including stalking; physical assault; threats of physical assault; intimidation; verbal abuse in person, by phone and by text messages; and approaches by the defendant to the victim’s family, friends and children.

Two sets of interviews with victims were conducted: one shortly after police attended the initial incident of domestic violence and a second, approximately six weeks later. The reduction in proscribed behaviour between the first and second interviews was then measured for both groups. 

The Bureau found the intervention group experienced significant reductions in the frequency of stalking, physical assault, threats of physical assault, intimidation and verbal abuse (in person, by phone and by text messages).

Reports of weekly physical assault, for example, fell by 66 per cent, while reports of weekly stalking and intimidation fell by 47 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively.  

Similar results, however, were also observed in the comparison group.

In that group, reports of weekly stalking fell by 53 per cent, reports involving intimidation fell by 83 per cent and reports of weekly physical assault fell by 100 per cent.

Testing revealed no significant difference between intervention and comparison groups in the degree to which the incidence of proscribed behaviours had fallen.

Commenting on the findings, the Executive Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that it would be wrong to conclude that Local Coordination Points and the Safety Action Meetings served no useful purpose.

One of the great benefits of these elements of the Safer Pathway program is that victims of serious domestic violence no longer have to repeatedly explain what happened to them to the multiple Government agencies and service providers who deal with the aftermath of domestic violence.

Dr Weatherburn also cautioned that the benefits of Local Coordination Points and Safety Action Meetings may take longer than six weeks to become apparent.

In the next phase of research on the Safer Pathway Program the Bureau will examine the impact of these elements on police-recorded domestic assault over a longer time period.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 02 8346 1100
Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au