Assessing the risk of family violence
The new Risk Assessment Framework commences on 1 September 2018 and guides the work of family violence workers and other professionals conducting formal risk assessments.
The policy and practice guide accompanying the framework includes examples of the types of family violence that may be particular to LGBTIQ communities. For instance, professionals should be aware of the following when working with people from LGBTIQ communities:
- LGBTIQ communities face additional barriers to identifying and reporting family violence, and accessing appropriate services. Previous experiences of discrimination, or a lack of understanding and awareness, may result in a distrust in the service systems and an unwillingness to access services or report family violence.
- Some community members may prefer to interact with LGBTIQ-specific rather than universal services.
- LGBTIQ people may be in what appear to be same-sex or heterosexual intimate partner relationships.
- LGBTIQ communities have a wide variety of experiences, and should not be treated as one homogenous group.
Many of the considerations below in relation to safety planning also apply to assessing risk.
Safety planning and working with LGBTIQ people
There are some key considerations when providing family violence support to LGBTIQ people experiencing family violence, which can include safety planning. Some of these considerations are:
- LGBTIQ people experience threats to their wellbeing due to homophobia, biphobia, intersexphobia and transphobia which can manifest in physical and psychological abuse, harassment, discrimination or economic disadvantage. This can lead to a mistrust of services particularly where LGBTIQ inclusive practice is not immediately evident.
- Family violence against LGBTIQ people can be invisible or not taken as seriously due to heteronormative assumptions about what constitutes family and relationships.
- LGBTIQ people may have reduced social connections due to experiences of exclusion, discrimination and violence within important interpersonal relationships. These can include family members or others such as people from religious communities.
- Circumstances by which LGBTIQ people become parents can vary and parenting responsibilities may involve more than two parents or co-parents. Some families include children who live across two or more homes or children may live in stepfamilies where a sole parent begins a new relationship.
- Not all LGBTIQ people are ‘out’ in the community. When identifying supports do not presume family, workplaces and community members are aware of a person’s relationship, gender identity or the extent of the danger they are facing.
- Some transgender people may not have identification documentation which reflects their appearance or gender identity, or meets the expectations or needs of service providers. This may add complications to accessing various support services including income support programs or emergency housing. Some people may fear outingthemselves by presenting their identification.
- LGBTIQ people may request different information to be provided to different services they access as part of feeling safer and to ensure services will treat them well or with respect.
- Some people may assume there are no services that can support them, or may be unaware of available services.
- Not all LGBTIQ people will be eligible for services where children can also attend or stay. In such cases alternatives may need to be explored to address some service gaps in their area.
Practitioners can address some of these issues in the following ways:
- Ask open questions about who is in their family and their relationships rather than making assumptions.
- Actively talk through how to best engage children in safety planning.
Consider that safety plans which include a child’s welfare may need to include procedures and steps taken by more than one household – for example a lesbian mother experiencing violence from her partner may need to share plans with a male donor who also co-parents. Such circumstances can influence how LGBTIQ people seek legal protection or safety for their children.
- Identify support options among friends and within the person’s community as there may be estrangement from the family of origin.
Work collaboratively and ask permission to share knowledge with agencies nominated in a safety plan.
- Ascertain what agencies have done to build cultural safety for a victim/survivor’s particular needs before engaging with them. For example, a service saying they are LGBTIQ friendly does not ensure a safe environment for a trans woman. Before referring a client, check for a service’s experience working with particular cohorts and what sort of things they did to support them.
- Ensure risk assessments accurately capture the relationship with the perpetrator and identify others who may be at risk. For example, a woman may be in a relationship with another woman but experiencing abuse from an ex-male partner who is threatening to harm them both.
- Identify LGBTIQ liaison officers and warm contact points to services. This will minimise risks with services which may discriminate against or exclude the person you refer. A couple of ways to do this are by sharing information with services and professionals who are LGBTIQ-friendly or where specialist gaps exist seek a secondary consultation with w|respect.
- When first meeting someone, ask them for their pronouns and their partner’s, and gain permission to use these pronouns when sharing their information.
- Understand a person’s pronouns, and preferred name may differ to what is on written records — support people and, with their consent, ensure steps are taken in case documentation and collaborative case management to assert the person’s gender identity.
- Ask if services you refer to collect data and information with tools which do not reinforce assumptions about people’s sex, gender identity or sexuality, and which allow for non-binary gender options.
- Appreciate the complexity of confidentiality within smaller LGBTIQ communities and support people to take steps in safety planning which are mindful perpetrators may be present at events, support groups, services or community venues. Assist people to assert personal boundaries in social circles where familiarity with the perpetrator may create risk.
- Discuss information collected and how it will be shared so their LGBTIQ identity or identities is not unexpectedly shared.