Safe and Together (S&T) focuses on perpetrator patterns of behaviour, survivor strengths and the safety and welfare of adult and child victims.
Understand these patterns to interview, assess, plan and document, as we partner with survivors and intervene with perpetrators.
The Safe and Together Principles
These S&T principles are the foundation of the Child Safety approach to domestic and family violence.
Principle 1 is about keeping children at home with their mother and supporting her in keeping them safe wherever possible. The intent and implication is that children need the healing, stability and nurturance that she provides.
Removal from their mother should only occur in circumstances where:
- every reasonable attempt has been made to partner with the mother, and
- every reasonable effort (across agencies and court systems) has been made to intervene with the perpetrator, and
- when the perpetrator continues to have access to the children and presents an imminent risk to their safety.
Principle 2 means our default approach is to prioritise partnership-building with the mother (the survivor) as the most efficient and effective way to support the safety of her children. This partnership is an alliance with the mother that honours and builds on her strengths and her survival as a mother, in the face of the harm caused to family life by the behaviours of the perpetrator.
Principle 3 highlights the fact that the perpetrator patterns of behaviour are the source of harm to the children. Therefore, it is logical that accountability and the reduction of risk is dependent on intervention with the perpetrator—to prevent those behaviours. This intervention may involve engagement with a father, but could also involve coercive actions in the justice system.
In the S&T model, these 5 critical components are the heart of a perpetrator pattern-based approach. These components are used in assessment, documentation, planning, partnering (with survivors) and intervention (with perpetrators).
Gathering information on these 5 components provides a foundation for assessment. The components can capture the following elements of the case:
- how the perpetrator’s behaviour is coercive and/or controlling of the mother, and how he undermines and diminishes her as a parent
- how he criticises her and deflects from his harmful behaviour and responsibility as a parent
- how his behaviour is violent, aggressive, intimidating or threatening
- how he has directly hurt the child.
- how his behaviours have been detrimental to the wider functioning of the family (for example, in terms of housing, employment and social connections)
- how he has caused or exacerbated her substance or mental health issues, or how he has interfered with her recovery
- how the mother has been protective and attentive to the welfare of her child in the face of his destructive patterns of behaviour.
The Perpetrator mapping tool provides a helpful guide to the information needed to map his pattern of behaviour and identify her strengths as a mother.
Understanding perpetrator patterns is critical to an understanding of domestic and family violence
As shown above, when working with families where domestic and family violence is identified, assessment centres on identifying and analysing the perpetrator patterns of behaviour. The mapping, recording and understanding of behaviour patterns are critical to risk management, safety planning, intervention and all elements of domestic and family violence casework.
Reliable assessment cannot be achieved by looking at single incidents.
We prioritise perpetrator accountability. In Child Safety terms, this means framing the harmful behaviours of a father as his parenting choice.
Documentation is a vital way to capture accountability. It means being specific about his behaviours and the impact on children. It means not using terms that avoid accountability (for example, ‘they are in a domestic and family violence relationship’).
This clarity can also be useful as a focus and motivation for a father to change.
Partnership with mothers
In the context of perpetrator accountability, mothers (victims) are not blamed or responsible for their children’s experience of domestic and family violence (‘failure to protect’). The work with the mother is about partnering, building trust and supporting her strengths and safety planning. She should experience you as being on her side in her efforts to keep her children safe.
The mother can be the most reliable source of information about his behaviours (and any behaviour change). The partnership with a mother (survivor) is built by seeing her alone and in a safe setting. It is not safe or useful to see her with her partner.
Integrated response to domestic and family violence
Perpetrator accountability, risk assessment and safety planning should normally be addressed in collaboration with other agencies and systems.
Domestic and family violence agencies and authorities such as the Queensland Police Service (QPS) or Queensland Corrective Services are often core to the process. Where appropriate, cases are referred to High Risk Teams (domestic and family violence) or SCAN (Child Safety) or other integrated response forums (these are local groups such as HRTs or alternative local groups).
Domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health are co-occurring but these issues don’t generally happen independently of each other. Consider how the domestic violence is impacting, causing and/or exacerbating these issues. For example, a father preventing a mother from attending mental health appointments by withholding transport and then contacting services with worries about her mental health.
Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categorisation such as race, culture, class and gender as they relate to an individual or group and can lead to oppression. Fathers who use violence may gain additional power and the mother greater vulnerability if he comes from a privileged group, and she from a group that has historically been discriminated against or oppressed. A father may also have experienced oppression which contributes to his trauma. In Safe and Together practice we must seek a full understanding of the experiences of the parents to effectively partner and intervene to promote behaviour change and safety.
It is essential to use language that reflects the principles of the S&T model in all Child Safety documentation. This ensures behaviour patterns are prominent and visible. Accordingly, in domestic and family violence work, our language should focus on perpetrator accountability and a behaviour pattern-based approach.
Our language should be clear and specific about who is responsible for the behaviour. It should also be specific about what the behaviour is and the impact it has on the adult victim and children.
It is essential that our language and case notes do not shift responsibility to or blame the victim. Domestic violence is NOT a relationship issue or a shared responsibility. It is a pattern of coercive and violent behaviour that should be named and described. As stated earlier, for fathers, it is also a parenting choice.
The domestic and family violence-Informed Child Protection Practice tip sheet provides a summary of domestic violence-informed practice, it can be used as a practice reminder or checklist, or as a reference in supervision or other settings (like a practice panel).
The domestic violence-informed continuum of practice
S&T has prepared a continuum of practice that provides definitions and practice examples. The continuum is a useful reference point and guide in considering your own practice and the wider systemic response to domestic and family violence.
The continuum runs through levels: destructive-neglectful—pre-competent—competent—proficient levels:
- Destructive and neglectful practice is defined as making the victims less safe or discouraging them from seeking professional support and services.
- More competent practice is defined according to S&T principles as following a perpetrator pattern-based approach to domestic violence work.
- The most proficient level is defined by practice and policy that is domestic violence-informed and embedded in all elements of the system.
Use the domestic violence-informed continuum of practice in your supervision or in team or group settings. It will help you to consider where your own practice sits, where your team approach sits on the continuum, and how to influence change to help practice to become more proficient.
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Domestic violence in Australia
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