Risk Assessment, Risk Management, Safety Planning

Risk assessment, management, and safety planning are crucial to reducing exposure to further violence, including homicide, with families experiencing domestic violence. Moreover, risk assessment, management and safety planning needs to be informed by the unique nature of vulnerable individuals and communities.

You can also access online learning related to risk and safety here.

The Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative (CDHPI) strives to: 

  1. Foster collaboration and communication among organizations that work with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence;
  2. Identify missed opportunities for intervention and prevention in prior cases of domestic homicide and develop recommendations aimed at different helping systems to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future; 
  3. Ascertain and analyze best practices for risk assessment, management and safety planning within vulnerable communities.

Key Resources: Risk & Safety

A risk-led approach to domestic violence: The MARAC model in the UK.
This presentation by Robinson, describes the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC). Within the presentation, results are discussed from a previous study that examined the impact that this tool had in a community. Overall, repeat victimization was reduced after the use of the MARAC. The author recommends using a multi-agency network of professionals to protect high-risk victims and the need for cooperation to overcome challenges around implementing these networks.

Accounting for risk and danger practice checklists: Coordinating risk assessment in domestic violence cases.
This document, by Sponsler-Garcia, provides practice checklists in a number of areas (e.g., Advocacy Programs) that can be used to examine agencies’ responses to domestic violence and their collaboration with other agencies. These checklists were developed by the Battered Women Justice Project (BWJP) in order to assist jurisdictions with making sure that potential risks to victims are identified and addressed. The checklists take a number of factors into consideration, such as: confidentiality, ongoing risk assessment, and utilization of different sources of information. The document presents practice checklists for the following areas: Advocacy Programs, emergency communications, reducing risk by maximizing victim safety and offender accountability, emergency communications, responding officers, investigating officers, jail/detention, conditions of release/bail, prosecutors, judges, probation, batterer’s programs.

Agir pour prévenir l’homicide de la conjointe (Preventing domestic homicide of women: an intervention guide).
This document, written by Drouin et al., is an intervention guide that provides shelter workers with assessment and intervention skills to prevent domestic homicide. It includes: an overview of domestic homicide; key principles for intervention when there is high risk; risk assessment tools; recommendations to support workers following a crisis; ways to provide support for a woman navigating through the judicial process using a feminist approach; and ethical considerations with these interventions. Risk assessment recommendations focus on the use of specific tools. Recommendations for risk management relate to the specific needs of the woman. The guide states that safety planning is a high priority and should be developed through collaboration with the woman and worker. Concrete components of safety planning are provided in the guide, along with recommendations for safety planning when children are involved.

An analysis of the domestic violence lethality assessment in Johnson County, Kansas.
The report, written by Schott et al., examines the validity of the Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment (DVLA). Two hundred and seventy-two cases were analyzed and the DVLA was found to have predictive validity in its current construction. However, an analysis of the items found that some of the individual items are not related to outcomes in their current form. A recommendation made by the authors is to divide the DVLA into three categories of risk (low, medium, high). In addition, the DVLA and the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument-Revised (DVSI-R) seem to agree on the way in which levels of risk are measured. Increases in DVLA score are associated with increases in the level of risk as assessed by the DVSI-R. The DVLA in its present form should continue to be assessed for validity.

Assessing the Risk of Domestic Violence Offenders
This research summary provides information regarding how to best assess risk of reoffending among domestic violence offenders. The report concluded that the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment guide (SARA) is a useful scale for measuring domestic violence offenders. The SARA is empirically supported and has shown to be moderately accurate at predicting which offenders are more likely to reoffend.

Domestic-related homicide and domestic violence risk assessment tools
This is a presentation by Rollings et al. that describes the risk assessments used by police services in Australia and risk factors commonly found in cases of domestic homicide. Reasons for using risk assessment tools, as well as the drawbacks of doing so are listed. The presentation concludes with a proposal of a project titled, “Risk factors for domestic violence and domestic-related homicide” with Queensland Police.

Domestic violence MARACs (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences) for very high-risk victims in Cardiff, Wales: A process and outcome evaluation.
This study, written by Robinson, provides a description and evaluation of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC), which focus on managing violent and sexual offenders. For the purposes of the evaluation, interviews and data from police files (from 146 women) were used. MARACs were evaluated over a 6-month period. This report includes the findings from a process evaluation that involved site visits and key informant interviews, and an outcome evaluation that incorporated police data and victim interviews. Results indicate that respondents view MARACs as an important tool in responding to domestic violence. Respondents felt that MARACs make information sharing between agencies easier, assist in identifying key contacts, promote awareness about the impact of domestic violence on children, and improve victim safety. These findings highlight the benefits of using a multi-agency approach to helping victims of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Risk Assessment: Informing Safety Planning & Risk Management Brief
This is the second Brief in the Domestic Homicide series of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP). This Brief describes domestic violence risk assessment including the reasons for conducting assessments, the nature and kind of risk assessment tools, best practice in domestic violence risk assessment, predictive validity of tools, and the importance of victims’ perceptions of risk. The Brief indicates how domestic violence risk assessment informs risk management with offenders and safety planning with victims/survivors. Finally, the Brief outlines domestic violence risk assessment with particular vulnerable populations.
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Engaging men and boys in domestic violence prevention: Opportunities and promising approaches.
This report, written by Wells et al., analyzes the literature on engaging men and boys in the prevention of domestic violence and identifies promising practices. Seven promising areas of engagement are identified: (1) engaging fathers in domestic violence prevention, (2) men’s health and domestic violence prevention, (3) the role of sports and recreation in domestic violence prevention, (4) the role of the workplace in domestic violence prevention, (5) the role of peer relationships in domestic violence prevention, (6) men as allies in preventing domestic violence, and (7) Indigenous healing and domestic violence prevention. The report recognizes that further discussion is needed on working with men and boys in violence prevention.

Escalating violence: How to assess and respond to risk: A review of international experience.
This review, written by Murphy & McDonnell, analyzes frameworks of domestic violence assessment and current practices in Ireland.  The benefits of developing formal violence risk assessment frameworks are highlighted. The authors make recommendations that include: 1) conducting further research to identify best practices for risk assessment and safety planning in Ireland, 2) having service providers present during risk assessment, 3) creating protocols and procedures for next steps after a risk assessment is made, 4) having a jointly maintained database of domestic violence related statistics, and 5) forming a domestic violence multi-disciplinary team to develop risk-assessment frameworks.

Greater Newburyport Domestic Violence High Risk Team: Safety and Accountability Annual Report (2005-2011)
This is a brief report providing an overview of the background of the Greater Newburyport Domestic Violence High Risk Team and the 3-step model they use to intervene in the escalation of violent situations. The 3-step model begins with a risk assessment, followed by an intervention from a multi-disciplinary team, and concludes with ongoing monitoring and containment. The report also includes a breakdown of domestic violence statistics in Greater Newburyport from 2005-2011.

Interagency Case Assessment Team Best Practices: Working Together to Reduce the Risk of Domestic Violence
This manual was developed to guide and support the operation of local high risk domestic violence Interagency Case Assessment Teams (ICATs) in British Columbia.  The manual also helps to enhance collaboration among members of existing ICATs; guide and support communities interested in developing an ICAT; and encourages consistent ICAT practices in different parts of the province.  The manual was developed collaboratively with representatives from criminal justice, child welfare, and community-based anti-violence programs and published through the Ending Violence Association of BC.

Intervening with perpetrators of intimate partner violence: A global perspective.
Rothman et al. examined batterer intervention programs across the world. Seventy-four programs (56 classified as ‘batterer intervention programs’) were identified from 38 different countries. It was found that most often these programs grew out of existing counselling or advocacy services. Most practitioners in these programs choose intervention models based on a number of factors including knowledge of and access to curricula; reputation or name recognition of the model; theoretical orientation; and the model’s definition of intimate partner violence (IPV). The authors recommended that work be done toward the development of international best practice guidelines on batterer intervention; practitioners be provided with simply written translated syntheses of the empirical research on IPV causes and consequences; and international collaboration among programs to improve services.

Intervenir auprès des hommes pour prévenir l’homicide conjugal. (Intervening with men to prevent spousal homicide).
This reference guide, written by Drouin et al., is for professionals who work with perpetrators of intimate partner violence, especially in situations of high lethal risk. The guide provides an overview of domestic homicide and strategies for risk assessment and management after separation. The guide recommends conducting risk assessment using the Assessing the risk of spousal homicide tool. Recommendations for risk management and safety planning are discussed.

Intimate Partner Violence Risk Assessment Tools: A Review
This report is a comprehensive review of various intimate partner violence risk assessment tools. The report provides information regarding the use of risk assessment tools in situations of intimate partner violence, as well as the types of assessment tools available and their approaches, strengths and limitations.

Intimate Partner Violence Risk Assessment Validation Study
This report assesses the predictive accuracy of the Danger Assessment (DA), the Threat Assessment Method (DV-MOSAIC), the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (DVSI), and the Kingston Screening Instrument for Domestic Violence (K-SID) in assessing risk of repeat assault or potential lethality in domestic violence cases. The results concluded that, for the most part, the majority of the aforementioned assessments have strong psychometric properties. However, if available, additional information should be considered when making decisions regarding a victim’s safety.

Intimate partner violence risk assessment validation study: Final report.
This document, written by Roehl et al., describes a multi-site field test to analyze the predictive accuracy of different risk assessment methods and tools for repeat assault or lethality in domestic violence cases (i.e., SARA, The Domestic Violence Inventory – Risk and Needs Assessment, K-SID, The Domestic Violence Screening Inventory, Danger Assessment, DV-MOSAIC). A sample of 1307 women were interviewed, provided questionnaires, and were randomly assigned to receive certain risk assessments. Findings compare the different risk assessment methods in terms of predicting future assaults or risks for lethal violence.

Intimate partner violence risk assessment validation study: The RAVE study
This report, written by Roehl et al., examined the accuracy of different domestic violence risk assessment approaches. Four risk assessments methods (i.e., Danger Assessment, DV-MOSAIC, Domestic Violence Screening Instrument, and Kingston Screening Instrument for Domestic Violence) were tested, along with the victim’s own risk assessment.  Data are based on baseline and follow-up interviews with a sample of 782 women and arrest information of the offenders. The study found that all four of the risk assessment tools were significantly related to subsequent severity of abuse, although they were not very highly related. In addition, all of them predicted assault and severe assault significantly better than chance. The DA and the victim’s self-report were found to be most strongly correlated with subsequent abuse, however, these correlations were low. The report further describes differences that were found between the measures.

Inventory of spousal violence risk assessment tools used in Canada
This report from the Department of Justice Canada provides a summary of domestic violence risk assessment tools, checklists, and protocols used by criminal justice workers in Canada in 2008. Findings revealed that although some organizations were using validated risk assessment tools, others used ones they developed themselves. Investigative checklists and case management tools do not have the same predictive abilities as risk assessment tools, however they still have important functions (e.g., the development of victim safety plans and offender risk/need plans; raising risk factor awareness among police; providing evidence for trials and sentencing). Findings for factors related to effectiveness of reducing risk and increasing safety are described and the potential for national standard risk assessment practices.

Issues in risk assessment in the field of intimate partner violence: What practitioners need to know
This is a presentation by Campbell & Wolf that outlines a study on intimate partner femicide within 11 cities. Data are drawn from police records and proxy interviews about cases of actual and attempted femicides, and surveys with battered and non-battered women (controls). Findings reveal that most items from the Danger Assessment tool were more likely to be present in femicide and attempted femicide cases than in cases of abuse, and 65% of the cases had missed opportunities for prevention. The authors recommend that stalking be added to intimate partner femicide risk assessment and that while the Danger Assessment can be a good basis for safety planning, cutoffs should not be used for deciding protection for women.

Keeping Women Alive- Assessing the Danger
This report investigates the utilization of the Danger Assessment tool in Alberta with the purpose of informing women’s shelter practices, providing evidence-based research to community stakeholders, and piloting a train-the-trainer model. The report provides a number of recommendations on how to enhance the safety of women and children who are involved with women’s shelters in Alberta.

Lessons Learned from Domestic Violence Tragedies: Emerging Research, Policies, and Practices to Prevent Domestic Homicides
This paper summarizes key ideas and recommendations from a national think tank on the prevention of domestic homicides. The think-tank brought together 39 practitioners, researchers, and government officials representing Canada from coast to coast. The purpose of this discussion paper is to reflect on the current research, policy, and practices across Canada that have been directed at preventing domestic homicides and provides a framework for future directions.

Lethality Assessment Tools: A Critical Analysis
This report is a critical analysis of the use and effectiveness of lethality assessment tools. The author analyzed several assessment tools, and applied them to domestic homicide research to determine their usefulness. Ultimately the researcher concluded that these assessments would most appropriately be used as methods for evaluating future dangerousness, as opposed to predicting lethal outcomes.

ProActive Resolutions: Release of the SARA-V3
ProActive Resolutions: The SARA-V3 is the latest version of the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA), developed by Drs. Randall Kropp and Stephen Hart. The SARA is a set of structured professional judgement guidelines for the assessment and management of risk for intimate partner violence (IPV). The SARA provides evaluators with a systematic, standardized, and practical framework for gathering and considering information when making decisions about IPV risk. It is designed to help evaluators exercise their best judgment. The SARA has been extensively evaluated and is being used in over 15 countries spanning 5 continents.

Recognizing and Responding to Risk Factors for Domestic Homicide in New Brunswick
This is a presentation created by Dr. Deborah Doherty outlining the areas surrounding risk factors for domestic homicide. The presentation includes an overview of the risk factors associated with New Brunswick domestic homicides and murder-suicides, a comparison of the differences between rural and urban experiences of abuse, and an exploration into unique rural-based solutions.

Reducing Recidivism in Domestic Violence Cases
This report provides an overview of the literature available on domestic violence recidivism; evaluates the risk assessment tools available to predict recidivism; as analyzes and discusses recidivism data related to incidents of domestic violence in western Canada. The results concluded that a number of risk factors for recidivism exist including mental illness, a history of complaints by the victim, and violations of no-contact orders. Furthermore, the researchers recommend the use of risk assessment tools that can be used by police officers, particularly those that provide certification through one-day training.

Research results from a national study of intimate partner homicide: The Danger Assessment instrument.
This is a report written by Campbell et al. that examines the ability of the Danger Assessment (DA) to predict intimate partner homicide among women in violent relationships. The study uses interviews with proxy informants for intimate partner homicides and with women experiencing violence in their intimate relationships. The sample was gathered from 12 cities in the U.S. The core findings are that: (a) 15 of the 17 DA items distinguished IPH victims from abused women (all but partner and victim suicidality); (b) use (or threatened use) of a weapon and threatened with being killed were the strongest predictors of IPH over abuse; (c) the average DA score was significantly higher among IPHs than abused controls; and (d) internal consistency of the DA was acceptable among the IPHs (0.73) and controls (0.76). Results suggest that a score of 4 or higher should be considered as indicating serious risk.

Risk Assessment, Risk Management & Safety Planning Knowledge Exchange
This paper summarizes the presentations and discussions that arose out of the Risk Assessment, Risk Management and Safety Planning Knowledge Exchange that took place on October 17-19, 2012 in London, Ontario.  The purpose of the knowledge exchange was to bring together professionals from across the country who work in the violence against women sector to begin a national dialogue that would also help facilitate the development of a national strategy to examine, address, and share the issues, challenges, and best practices in the area of risk assessment, risk management and safety planning among cases of domestic violence.  Topics include: domestic violence death review; an overview of domestic violence risk assessment; collaborative risk assessment within a system context; recognizing children at risk for domestic homicides; risk assessment with vulnerable populations; risk management; safety planning; and developing a blue print for a national strategy.

Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From a Multisite Case Control Study
This paper identifies risk factors for lethality for women living with domestic violence. The researchers interviewed 220 proxies of victims of intimate partner femicide/homicide, as well as 343 abused women. Common risk factors identified were the perpetrator’s access to a firearm, previous threats with a weapon, perpetrator’s stepchild in the home, and separation/estrangement. Additional risk factors are identified and discussed.

Safety Planning Across Culture & Community: A Guide for Front Line Violence Against Women Responders
This guide was developed to help professionals who support survivors of woman abuse broaden their approach to safety planning by including more specific factors and considerations relevant to women with differing social locations.  The guide outlines: 1) general risk identification and safety planning with women who are victims of violence in an intimate relationship; 2) risk identification with women across culture; immigrant and refugee women; older women; sex workers; younger women; women with disabilities; lesbian, bisexual, and queer women; and trans people; and 3) resources available to survivors of woman abuse.  The guide was created by the Community Coordination for Women’s Safety and the Ending Violence Association of BC.

The development of the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER): A tool for criminal justice professionals.
This report, written by Kropp & Hart, outlines the development and assessment of the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER). The authors began by assessing the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA) and a modified version for police. The authors used these findings, which suggested a need to shorten, simplify, and revise the forms, to develop the B-SAFER. The B-SAFER was tested by looking at forms completed by police for spousal violence cases in Canada and Sweden. The findings of the evaluation are discussed.

The family violence risk assessment project and its domestic violence screening instrument (DVSI-R).
This document was developed by the State of Connecticut Judicial branch and provides a review of the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument-Revised (DVSI-R). It identifies four variables found by previous research to have significant effects on predicting recidivism: 1) the DVSI-R risk score, with a higher score being associated with a greater likelihood of reoffending; 2) type of violence, with intimate partner violence associated with greater recidivism compared to other forms of family violence; 3) number of victims, with more victims being associated with greater likelihood of reoffending; and 4) imminent risk as rated by a counsellor.  A future study on family violence offenders is also briefly described.

The validity of risk assessments for intimate partner violence: A meta-analysis.
This report, written by Hanson et al., provides a quantitative review of spousal assault risk assessments through a meta-analysis. It analyzes the predictive validity of different approaches to risk assessment of repeated spousal assault that were identified in 18 studies. The findings of the meta-analysis describe the predictive accuracy of the approaches and describe the most accurate tools. The authors make the claim that the predictive accuracy can be improved through combining specific and general risk factors, alongside information from different sources.

The Western Australian Family and Domestic Violence Common Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework
This manual outlines the Western Australian Family and Domestic Violence Common Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework. The manual includes a background of the framework, a history of risk assessment, key information service providers need to be aware of when screening or assessing family and domestic violence, supportive legislation of integrated responses to manage risk and improve safety, and a guide for family and domestic violence screening and risk assessment.

Threat Assessment and Risk Management in Domestic Violence Cases: An Overview of Ontario Justice and Community Collaboration for 2010 and Future Directions
In 2010, the Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children (CREVAWC) hosted a conference entitled “Reducing the risk for lethal violence: Collaboration in threat assessment and risk management.” The purpose of the conference was to initiate more dialogue with community and justice partners around the issues of threat assessment, risk management, and collaboration among systems. Two hundred and eighty-six people attended the conference and represented justice, community, and government sectors. The conference was funded by the Ontario Women’s Directorate. This paper summarizes the discussions at this conference on the challenges of collaborating on risk management, solutions to the barriers of information sharing, and potential actions plans to enhance collaboration on risk management and threat assessment in different jurisdictions.

Tools help police prevent domestic abuse; Domestic Assault Risk Assessment evaluates likelihood of future violence
In March, police services are introducing the Domestic Violence Risk Management Screening tool, an improved Domestic Violence Supplementary Report Form created years ago by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and OPP.

Training Needs of Community Professionals Involved in Threat Assessment and Risk Management in Domestic Violence Cases: Feedback from an Ontario Multidisciplinary Forum
This is a brief report highlighting the feedback received from the forum titled “Reducing the Risk of Lethal Violence: Collaboration in Threat Assessment and Risk Management: From Theory to Practice.” The feedback was collected in the form of a survey, and assessed whether or not the information provided in the forum was helpful in changing practices in communities regarding threat assessment and risk management.

Validation and expansion of the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) Instrument: An early warning system.
This paper, written by Moser & Campbell, describes a study to assess the validity and expansion of the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA). A random sample of 200 offenders selected from police reports of intimate partner violence (IPV) were followed for six years.  Findings reveal that the instrument is able to distinguish recidivists from non-recidivists, regardless of gender (victim or perpetrator) or type of violence that was perpetrated. The ODARA is also effective in distinguishing between low, moderate, and high risk for IPV perpetrators, regardless of whether the violence was physical or non-physical. The study found similar risk profiles and offending patterns between male and female perpetrators. There was no relationship between police officers’ decision to arrest the perpetrator and their risk of IPV, however situational factors were found to be relevant to their decision-making. It is recommended that police formally assess risk to triage offenders and victims to suitable interventions based on level of risk.

Validation study of the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (DVSI): All assessments completed between August 2003 and July 2007.
This report, written by Hisashina, examines the validity of the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (DVSI), by examining its distributions and accuracy from assessments completed in Hawaii between 2003 and 2007. Results revealed categories of risk that were most commonly used to classify offenders, and commonly reported risk factors. Overall, the accuracy of the DVSI is supported.

WAYPOINT Centre for Mental Health Care – Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) e-learning program
Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene, Ontario offers an interactive e-learning program for assessors to learn to use the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) tool.  The ODARA is an actuarial risk assessment tool was created by the Research Department at Waypoint in collaboration with the Ontario Provincial Police Behavioural Sciences and Analysis Section and the Research Department at Waypoint.  The ODARA assesses the risk of re-assault for men who have abused their intimate partners.  Professionals who work with perpetrators and/or victims of woman abuse can use the ODARA.  The interactive e-learning program provides the research background and validations of the ODARA; detailed scoring instructions; and practice cases.  The program takes 4-6 hours to complete and is free for Ontario agencies responding to intimate partner violence.