Probation Officers up skill in working with family violence

With increasing focus from the New Zealand Police on family violence, this filters through into assessment and sentence management of Community Probation Service. Earlier this year we were asked to design and deliver a pilot programme for probation officers. The focus is on working with cases where family violence is the presenting issue. Family violence is one of those ‘under the radar’ type of offences in that by the time the issue has come into the public gaze, seriousness has often increased. While I acknowledge that we do have a high rate of separation violence where there is no history of prior abusive behaviour – there may have been unhappiness – in most cases the thesis of seriousness does hold true.

A major focus of probation work is to broker relationships between the Court as a result of sentences imposed and stopping violence service providers. Engaging and motivating people with violence issues coming through the Court system to fully and responsibly engage in programmes to enhance family safety, is a key skill set. In addition understanding the unique indicators of risk that come with family violence, that may not be evident with other offending behaviour is also critically important. We know for example that an estimated 20% of women living in abusive situations are assaulted during pregnancy. Being mindful of this research can prompt a key question that might make the world of difference in terms of safety for the mother and developing baby.

The training also covers issues of engaging with distortions and justifications for abusive behaviour, developing safety strategies (for both the perpetrator and victim of abuse), conversations on cultural dimensions, and putting the jigsaw together through exploring a range of case examples from practice.

We are very happy with the overall grouped results from the pilot in that the training design and content has been seen as very relevant to the role of probation officers. With growing attention, and even more so, with District Court judges now being able to grant interim protection orders, it is likely that a greater number of those who engage in family violence will come into the correctional system.

Published on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010, under Family violence

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