Focusing on Safety: Safety planning in the context of same-sex domestic violence


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Priscilla McCorriston,
St George Domestic Violence Counselling Service
This workshop session will define and outline the importance of safety planning and demonstrate best practice to achieve better outcomes for clients experiencing same-sex domestic violence.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Focusing on Safety: Safety planning in the context of same-sex domestic violence

  1. 1. Safety planning Increasing the safety of clients in intimate partner violence situations using a collaborative, strengths based approach P.McCorriston STGDVS, 2009
  2. 2. Strengths based approach <ul><li>The perpetrator is responsible for the IPV </li></ul><ul><li>People subjected to IPV have strength and can make informed decisions </li></ul><ul><li>They can & do act proactively to protect themselves and their children. </li></ul><ul><li>People subjected to IPV are not just ‘victims’ </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  3. 3. Collaborative approach <ul><li>Research shows repeatedly that people subjected to IPV value </li></ul><ul><li>being listened to </li></ul><ul><li>believed </li></ul><ul><li>having their decisions respected.  </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  4. 4. Stance to take on client’s experience <ul><li>Authentic and validating client’s experience of the violence </li></ul><ul><li>Clients are experts in their own lives </li></ul><ul><li>Recognise clients as capable of making informed decisions and responsible for their own decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge the value of our client’s experience </li></ul><ul><li>Use this knowledge to assist this client and other clients </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  5. 5. Risk factors <ul><li>Presence of guns </li></ul><ul><li>Previous use of weapons </li></ul><ul><li>Threats with weapons </li></ul><ul><li>Threats to kill </li></ul><ul><li>Chocking </li></ul><ul><li>Previous serious injury </li></ul><ul><li>Threats to suicide </li></ul><ul><li>D&A misuse </li></ul><ul><li>Forced sex </li></ul><ul><li>Threats or actual harm to animals </li></ul><ul><li>Obsessive extreme jealousy or dominance (Campbell, 1995) </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  6. 6. Risk assessment- additional factors <ul><li>Centrality of partner to abuser’s life, s/he is isolated </li></ul><ul><li>Depression of abuser </li></ul><ul><li>Repeated intervention of law enforcement </li></ul><ul><li>Escalation of risk taking </li></ul><ul><li>Separation </li></ul><ul><li>Hostage taking </li></ul><ul><li>Clients own perception of serious risk </li></ul><ul><li>(Pennsylvanian Coalition Against Domestic Violence) </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  7. 7. Specific tactics used in SSDV - Homophobia <ul><li>Threats to ‘out’ partner to family, friends, church, work, police. </li></ul><ul><li>Threats of ‘not being believed’ by friends/supports or ‘the law’ Chung 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>This tactic increases isolation, fear and sense of entrapment. </li></ul><ul><li>Using ‘role sterotypeing’ to shift responsibility or blame abused partner for violence or abuse </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  8. 8. Additional tactics used in SSDV - HIV status <ul><li>Normalising abusive behaviours because of illness </li></ul><ul><li>Threats of HIV status being ‘outed’ </li></ul><ul><li>Imposing unsafe sex when abusive partner is infected or having multiple partners </li></ul><ul><li>Denying access to treatment </li></ul><ul><li>Using guilt to make abused partner stay in relationship ( Chung 2006 ) </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  9. 9. Contexts that support violence in Lesbian & Gay relationships <ul><li>Homophobia-fear of leaving relationship, fear of being alone, especially if 1st relationship </li></ul><ul><li>Homophobia-Not wanting to disclose abuse for fear of letting the ‘community’ down </li></ul><ul><li>Gender expectations-e.g. Men feeling shame/hiding abuse –feeling less manly because they are being assaulted </li></ul><ul><li>Ideal of egalitarianism-sometimes used to hide unfair treatment (Carrington 1999) </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVCS, 2008
  10. 10. Safety planning vs escape planning <ul><li>They are not the same thing. </li></ul><ul><li>Escape planning assumes a single incident at a particular point in time. </li></ul><ul><li>It relates to lethality & physical danger primarily. </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  11. 11. Safety planning <ul><li>Is an ongoing process, not a one off event. </li></ul><ul><li>Helps the ‘victim’ to identify what s/he is already doing to reduce their risk and the risk faced by their children </li></ul><ul><li>Help the client to identify strategic ways of thinking and acting to reduce their risk of violence and increase their safety and the safety of their children </li></ul><ul><li>If children are old enough, planning may also involve them </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  12. 12. Safety planning <ul><li>Is a dynamic process that takes into consideration the client’s current situation, resources, current risks, current limitations including systems blocks </li></ul><ul><li>Inclusive of physical, emotional & social safety of the client & their children and pets </li></ul><ul><li>Is developed in alliance with the client </li></ul><ul><li>Respect the client as a holder of inside knowledge about the perpetrator and their behaviour </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  13. 13. Therapeutic position <ul><li>Position of the worker in safety planning work is one of advocate, but advocate with not advocate for the client. </li></ul><ul><li>The worker becomes a “partner in safety planning, serving as listener, guide liaison clarifier information source and strategies.” Davies,1998 </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVCS, 2008
  14. 14. Role of the Worker <ul><li>We educate about: </li></ul><ul><li>risk factors </li></ul><ul><li>indicators of lethality </li></ul><ul><li>perpetrator tactics </li></ul><ul><li>safety strategies that have helped other clients </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  15. 15. Role of the worker <ul><li>To be pro-active and directive in times of </li></ul><ul><li>crisis. </li></ul><ul><li>To be non directive at other times </li></ul><ul><li>To provide access to resources and support access to other agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Advocate for client </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  16. 16. We offer: <ul><li>Our expertise from research on what helps to promote safety </li></ul><ul><li>Our knowledge of systems and other agencies </li></ul><ul><li>Access to what other clients have taught us experience </li></ul><ul><li>Advocacy </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  17. 17. Key agencies/formal supports <ul><li>Police/DVLOs/GLOs </li></ul><ul><li>DV line 1800 65 64 63 </li></ul><ul><li>Legal services (DVAS) (02) 8745 6999 </li></ul><ul><li>Counselling option/mental health referral </li></ul><ul><li>Housing-DoH and community options </li></ul><ul><li>DoCS Helpline 132 111 </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  18. 18. Establishing safe contact <ul><li>Which forms of contact are safe to use? </li></ul><ul><li>How can the contact occur to optimise safety? </li></ul><ul><li>Who else can support safe contact between the worker and client? </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  19. 19. Safety planning practice <ul><li>Start with talking about existing safety planning & helping him/her to name it </li></ul><ul><li>Build on this </li></ul><ul><li>Educate or acknowledge that perpetrator tactics will change in response to client’s behaviour, especially major changes </li></ul><ul><li>Predict issues they may arise and system responses & help plan in response to these </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  20. 20. Safety planning practice continued <ul><li>Acknowledge and or educate about separation and post separation as times of increased risk </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledge or educate about the distinction between a violent relationship vs high conflict relationship </li></ul><ul><li>May mean encouraging the client not to disclose information to his/her partner or children if this will impact on safety </li></ul><ul><li>Includes giving specific information and specific suggestions which may appear obvious to worker e.g. use of 000 </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  21. 21. Suggested questions to start the process <ul><li>Tell me what you are already doing to keep you and your children safe? </li></ul><ul><li>What are risky times when abuse/violence is likely to happen? </li></ul><ul><li>What is similar about these times or situations? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the triggers/indicators that you are at risk of further abuse/being assaulted? </li></ul><ul><li>What supports do you have at home or near by ? </li></ul><ul><li>Who knows about the abuse? </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  22. 22. Safety planning practice-Current safety concerns <ul><li>What are the most pressing concerns about safety? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the client currently safe from their partner? </li></ul><ul><li>Where is the partner? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>in the home </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>in the same area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interstate </li></ul></ul><ul><li>If there are children/vulnerable others and/or pets, are they safe? </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVCS, 2008
  23. 23. Assessing danger <ul><li>When did the most recent incident occur? </li></ul><ul><li>Include information about severity of violence and frequency. </li></ul><ul><li>Has frequency increased. </li></ul><ul><li>How long has violence been occurring, patterns, attempts to get help/minimise violence </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  24. 24. Reviewing safety strategies together <ul><li>What safety strategies has the client used in the past? </li></ul><ul><li>What has worked? </li></ul><ul><li>What hasn’t worked? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s worth trying again? </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  25. 25. Supports <ul><li>Who knows about the violence? </li></ul><ul><li>What are their beliefs about DV? </li></ul><ul><li>Who is supportive of the client? </li></ul><ul><li>Does client need assistance to connect with informal or public/professional supports? </li></ul><ul><li>Has client had professional support in the past? </li></ul><ul><li>Is there support available hasn’t been used yet? </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  26. 26. Using supports for self & children <ul><li>Have you every had contact with the police? What happened then? </li></ul><ul><li>What happens when the children are in the house? </li></ul><ul><li>Do they have somewhere safe to go? </li></ul><ul><li>How do you contact your friends/family? </li></ul><ul><li>What will you need to do to keep yourself safe when you go home today </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  27. 27. Practical suggestions <ul><li>Do you have essential items/documents packed away somewhere else? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you have a code to tell your children/flatmate to go or to get help? </li></ul><ul><li>Are emergency numbers saved in your phone? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you have access to emergency money? </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  28. 28. Factors affecting effective use of safety planning <ul><li>Client unable to engage clearly in his/her own safety planning because of : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>severe level of abuse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>strong attachment to perpetrator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>mental health problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>drug and alcohol abuse </li></ul></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  29. 29. Factors supporting safety planning <ul><li>Access to informal and formal supports </li></ul><ul><li>Access to information and services </li></ul><ul><li>Active planning </li></ul><ul><li>Mapping of tactics and their patterns </li></ul><ul><li>Ongoing assistance with safety planning </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowleding the losses and grief </li></ul><ul><li>Encouragement & support </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVCS, 2008
  30. 30. Situation1.-Jo & Chris <ul><li>Jo & Chris have been together for 3 years, living together in Australia for 12 months. Jo is from the UK & met Chris there when she was on a working holiday. </li></ul><ul><li>Jo is referred after she & Chris attended couple counselling. </li></ul><ul><li>Jo describes a history of controlling behaviour by g/f including controlling who she sees, where she goes, how much she spends. Chris is insistent Jo work at least 50 a week so that Jo matches Chris’s earnings. Chris has a well paid corporate position. Chris works in hospitality.Jo says she has few friends in Sydney. </li></ul><ul><li>Jo describes incidents of severe violence where they both drink and then angry with each other and then hurt each other fighting. Jo is bigger than Chris & is worried she’ll be charged if the police are called Chris has threatened to out Jo to her boss on some of these occasions. </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVS, 2009
  31. 31. Situation 2-Brett & Dave <ul><li>Dave is 37 & Brett 25. Dave is a well established professional who is well connected in the community. Brett is originally from rural Victoria. Most of his ‘Sydney friends’ are also Dave’s friends. Brett has limited funds as he works 25hrs/wk and is studying as well. </li></ul><ul><li>Brett is referred for counselling because he has panic attacks. </li></ul><ul><li>Brett states he’s confused about the relationship with Dave. He says Dave is always putting him down & humiliating him in front of their friends. He says he is sometimes scared when Dave is angry. He says he pushes him around and stands over him. He also checks up on him all the time when he is at Uni or out with friends. </li></ul><ul><li>He doesn’t want to leave Dave because he loves him and he feels he needs to look after him as Dave has been HIV positive for a long time & has been really sick recently.. </li></ul>P.MCorriston, STGDVCS, 2008