Australia to trial domestic violence deterrence program

The Morrison Government is committing $4.2 million to trial a new domestic violence deterrence program as part of our commitment to end violence against women and children.

The Coordinated Enforcement and Support to Eliminate (CEASE) Domestic Violence Program aims to deter perpetrators from reoffending through overt monitoring and clear consequences for further offending, particularly repeat intimate partner violence.  

The trial is being modelled on the Intimate Partner Violence Initiative (IPVI) developed by the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, New York, and first introduced in High Point, North Carolina. 

The CEASE Domestic Violence Program will be the first trial run outside of the US and will be delivered by the Australian Institute of Criminology, working closely with state and territory partners.

Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said it was unacceptable that in Australia about 50 per cent of perpetrators commit a further domestic violence offence within four years of their initial offence.

“The Morrison Government is committed to holding offenders accountable because women and children have the right to feel safe and live without fear of violence,” Minister Ruston said. 

“In the US this program has shown evidence of making real inroads into preventing repeat offences and therefore helping women to become free of violence. We are keen to see if those results can be replicated in Australia.

“Perpetrator interventions are an important part of the suite of tools that can be used to reduce domestic violence and we are committed to building the evidence base on what works.”

State and territory police will refer perpetrators onto the program and they will be arranged into a hierarchy based on the severity of their intimate partner violence history.

Low risk offenders will be alerted to the consequences of committing another crime against their partner and will be referred to support services such as anger management or alcohol and drug treatment. Higher level offenders will be subject to more routine monitoring including compliance and bail checks and will receive constant reinforcement that even unrelated crimes such as theft or road charges will have severe consequences because of their history of intimate partner violence. 

The program will also help victims access support services and safety planning procedures to help them establish a life free from violence.

Australian Institute of Criminology Deputy Director Dr Rick Brown said there were common characteristics among repeat domestic violence offenders that focused deterrence approaches could address better than traditional legal responses. 

“In the US recidivism rates among domestic violence offenders are estimated to be as high as 80 per cent, while one year recidivism rates for participants of the IPVI program were substantially lower at around 16 per cent,” Dr Brown said.

“This approach combines what we know works into a single coordinated response that proactively engages with perpetrators and victims while also building an evidence base to strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to domestic violence.”

The CEASE Program trial is set to begin at the end of 2021 and state and territory governments will be invited to nominate jurisdictions to participate that have high rates of domestic violence reoffending. 

Perpetrator intervention programs will be a key topic discussed at the National Summit on Women’s Safety, being held virtually on 6 and 7 September 2021, with Dr Hayley Boxall (AIC), Prof Bronwyn Carlson (Macquarie University), Michal Morris (InTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence), Nyadol Nyuon (Harmony Alliance) and Jaqcui Watt (No to Violence).

The trial is being funded under the Morrison Government’s record $1.1 billion investment in Women’s Safety in the 2021-22 Budget.