Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation focused on how police services from across Ontario are employing safety planning processes and procedures with adult victims and children living with domestic violence and the effectiveness of adopting risk management strategies to reduce the risk of potential future violence by the offender. Police response in Ontario has been guided by procedures and processes that have been manualized since the year 2000 to manage and investigate offences of this nature. Furthermore, challenges and barriers to providing effective safety planning and risk management strategies were examined along with best practices that police services are incorporating to ensure overall victim safety. To gain insight into existing practices for police services, interviews were conducted and analyzed with 12 senior police officers who specialize in domestic violence investigations. The participants were from various jurisdictions from across Ontario. The interviews were part of a national research grant examining the response of key informants from different professions and sectors dealing with domestic violence risk assessment, risk management and safety planning.
Overall, the findings highlight police have a critical role to play in the overall safety and wellbeing of victims of domestic violence and their children. The findings from this study suggest that there is an inconsistent approach to safety planning across the police services who participated. Furthermore, there is a reluctance for police to directly engage children exposed to domestic violence especially in terms of offering safety planning. In addition, risk management strategies targeted at the perpetrator of domestic violence was lacking amongst most of the police services who participated as many were victim-centered and not offender-centered in their
approach to managing risk to the victim.
Summary for Lay Audience
Domestic violence is a global gendered social issue, primarily affecting females, however, it is recognized that other gender identities can experience abuse and domestic violence. Furthermore, domestic violence can affect all demographics, no one is immune. Domestic violence occurs in the context of romantic and intimate partner relationships, and often behind closed doors making it a very isolating and traumatic experience for victims. Domestic violence can have a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities, especially when it turns lethal and lives are lost.
In Ontario, police services are mandated and trained to investigate and assist victims of domestic violence. These investigations can be complex due to the nature and dynamics of domestic violence. Unfortunately, tragedies do occur. When tragedies occur the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC), which consists of a team of professionals representing various agencies in the field of domestic violence review domestic homicide cases to identify risk factors, history of system involvement, and missed opportunities for intervention. The purpose of reviewing domestic homicide cases is to make recommendations to appropriate agencies on how current practices can be improved upon to avoid such tragedies in the future. Moreover, there has been an increased interest to identify unique risk factors among vulnerable populations, such as, Indigenous peoples, Immigrants and Refugees, rural, remote and northern
communities, and children who are exposed to domestic violence.
This study examined how police are conducting safety planning with adult domestic violence victims and their children and how they are employing risk management strategies to monitor the offender. Moreover, the study explored the challenges and promising practices police experience while working with domestic violence victims and victims identified from vulnerable populations.
Overall, this study highlights the need for increased police training in safety planning with victims and their child(ren) and employing risk management strategies for the offender, the need for enhanced cross-sector collaboration and a standardized approach to conducting police investigations into domestic violence occurrences.
Fraser, Carolyn Anne, "Challenges for police in safety planning and risk management for adults victims and children living with domestic violence: Barriers and promising practices" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6952.