New reports from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety

Found in: Resources on violence against women and girls

New reports from Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety

The Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) has released three new ANROWS Horizons research reports. Research findings have important implications for policy-makers and practitioners.

Media representations of violence against women and their children

This State of Knowledge Paper (a joint project with Our Watch) examines the role of news media in influencing public perceptions about violence against women. Collectively, studies illustrate that the media frequently mirrors society’s confusion and ambivalence about violence against women. Although the link between media reporting and behaviour is not well-established, studies of audience influence show that media can play a role in dispelling myths and reinforcing information about the true nature and extent of the problem.

The challenge, as identified in studies of news production, is that the communication of information about violence against women as a social problem does not always fit easily with expectations around what makes news. Targeting media via prescriptive media guidelines may not be the best approach to changing mainstream media reporting. Even in the well-developed area of suicide and media, researchers have noted that media guidelines, or certain elements contained within them, are not always easy to interpret, nor are they necessarily used by journalists and editors. Thus this paper posits that it is important to explore other avenues to effect change, specifically by way of targeted dissemination.

Establishing the Connection: Interventions linking service responses for sexual assault with drug or alcohol use/abuse

The relationship between sexual victimisation and adverse outcomes, such as problematic substance use, has been an area of increasing understanding in recent decades, and it is now well established that there is a consistent association between the two. Although this association is complex, evidence demonstrates that child and adolescent sexual abuse and adult sexual assault may lead to problematic alcohol and other drug (AOD) use for a variety of reasons. Further, problematic AOD use may lead to sexual re-victimisation in adulthood as a result of related and contextual individual, interpersonal, community and social factors.

Despite this enhanced knowledge base, researchers, service providers and policy-makers have struggled to translate this evidence into specific measures for both sectors to adequately meet the therapeutic and service needs of victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and/or adult sexual assault who also have, or have had, substance use problems.

Historically, the AOD and sexual assault sectors have not worked together to bridge their services in support of clients who might require referrals between them. This has resulted in service users with multiple needs experiencing difficulty in navigating these services which can have an impact on both referral pathways and treatment options. With an increasing recognition of the need for “trauma informed” service delivery across the human services sector, these traditionally siloed approaches are no longer sustainable if the service and support needs of those with co-morbid conditions are to be adequately addressed.

Evidence suggests that there is a desire for greater interagency collaboration between AOD and sexual assault services; clarity on the forms this can take will guide the development of a resource that works within sectoral constraints while leveraging sectoral supports for collaboration. A requirement of collaboration is resourcing and proper structures and these can be fostered by policies which support collaboration.

If the responsibility to provide greater service lies only with individual practitioners or agencies, it risks a lack of resourcing and governance that can lead to failure. A key resource need arising from the findings of this paper is the need for practitioners to be supported in assisting clients with referral information. Practitioners in this research noted that a set of guidelines with relevant facts, links and contact details would work best to support them to respond to and refer their clients.

Further recommendations for resources based on the findings of this research, but beyond the scope of this project to develop and provide, are training and network opportunities.

National mapping and meta-evaluation outlining key features of effective "safe at home" programs that enhance safety and prevent homelessness for women and their children who have experienced domestic and family violence

"Safe at home" strategies and programs have been underpinned by the philosophical position that the perpetrator is solely accountable for their violence and controlling behaviours which should mean that their partners and children are not made homeless, or displaced from families, friends and schools. They are also a response to homelessness recognising that a significant barrier for women trying to escape a violent partner is that they have nowhere suitable to go, and when women do escape they are often faced with homelessness and transience and little economic resources.

Currently in Australia there is no uniform "safe at home" program or model and they have evolved in various forms across Australian jurisdictions. The responsible departments leading "safe at home" programs also vary across jurisdictions, but usually incorporate justice, housing, human services and child safety.

The specific aims of this research are to:

  • Examine the important program characteristics, outcome domains and research methods in evaluations of Australian "safe at home" programs, including the strengths and weaknesses of previous evaluations;
  • Synthesise existing evaluations and literature to produce evidence of the effectiveness of "safe at home" programs;
  • Provide direction for future evaluations and organisations by recommending key minimum elements and datasets in particular locations, contexts and circumstances to improve the safety of women and their children; and
  • Establish a national, and potentially international, benchmark for future evaluations and projects in this field.