Inventory of Spousal Violence Risk Assessment Tools Used in Canada

5. Description of Tools, Investigative Checklists and Protocols

5.1 Aid to Safety Assessment Planning (ASAP)

The Aid to Safety Assessment Planning is a manual that was created as a result of a partnership between the Victim Services and Crime Prevention Division, BC Ministry of Public Safety and the BC Institute Against FamilyViolence. The objective of this manual is to reduce the risk of violence by providing a comprehensive and coordinated safety management strategy that victim service workers can use in cooperation with other relevant justice agencies to support women in making safety assessment decisions.

It was designed to examine the risk factors from the victim’s perspective and emphasizes the need for relevant agencies and the victim to work together and, where appropriate, share information on known risk factors. The manual and sample worksheet incorporates items from established tools such as the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) and the Brief Spousal Assault Form for Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER) to create appropriate safety plans.

The ASAP[7] manual outlines eleven (11) Abuser Factors that identify the abuser’s actions that increase a woman’s risk of being abused or decrease her level of safety.

11 Abuser Factors

  1. Abuser’s Violence
  2. Violent Threats, Ideation and Intent
  3. Escalation of Physical/Sexual Violence or Threats
  4. Violations of Civil and Criminal Court Orders
  5. Negative Attitudes about Violence against Women in Relationships
  6. Other Criminality
  7. Response to Shifts in Power and Control Dynamics
  8. Employment or Financial Problems
  9. Substance Use Problems
  10. Mental Health Problems
  11. Other Abuser Factors e.g. Access to Firearms, Significant Life Change

It also includes twelve (12) Safety Support Factors that outline what a victim needs to ensure the best possible safety plan while identifying barriers to her safety.

Safety Support Factors

  1. Level of Personal Support
  2. Living Situation
  3. Level of Fear
  4. Barriers Created by Social Attitudes or Beliefs
  5. Impacts of Abuse
  6. Employment and Financial Concern
  7. Child-related Concerns
  8. Substance Abuse
  9. Access to Services
  10. Responsivity to Services
  11. Provision of Information
  12. Coordination of Services

Overall, there are five (5) key steps in using the ASAP manual

  1. Gather the information;
  2. Identify the presence and relevance of abuser and safety support factors;
  3. Develop risk scenarios;
  4. Work with the woman on her safety plan and;
  5. Note priority actions.

The ASAP manual is currently being used by domestic violence intervenors and Victim Services in New Brunswick. In British Columbia, collaborative efforts between Victim Services and criminal justice personnel have been established locally in some areas of the province.

To order a copy of the ASAP manual, please visit the Centre for Counselling and Community Safety, Justice Institute of British Columbia web site: http://www.jibc.ca/programs-courses/schools-departments/school-community-social-justice/centre-counselling-community-safety/student-resources/publications-videos/manuals (date accessed: June 6, 2013)

5.2 Alberta Integrated Threat and Risk Assessment Centre (I-TRAC)

Threat assessment is performed by I-TRAC to offer assistance to all law enforcement and criminal justice agencies; including prosecutors and corrections, in the management of high risk non-domestic, domestic violence, criminal harassment and stalking occurrences. The head office is located at ALERT West Campus Edmonton, Alberta.

I-TRAC services include: assessing the level of risk an individual poses, providing case management strategies, training, safety planning, expert testimony and facilitating access to certified threat assessors, forensic psychology and external agencies including other mental health, and specialized law-enforcement and criminal justice units. Additionally, I-TRAC facilitates requests to create new identities for victims of abuse under the Confidential Services for Victims of Abuse (CSVA) Program.

Some of the benefits of I-TRAC involvement include:

  • stakeholders are better informed on the potential for violence and/or other risks posed by a subject;
  • in an effort to manage violence risk, investigators are provided with case management suggestions that may include; victim safety planning, offender management and other case specific details including information from other available resources;
  • criminal and family courts have access to all known pertinent and current subject history, as contained in the completed threat assessment.

5.3 Bail Safety Program Interview Checklist

The Bail Safety Interview Checklist is used by police in Ontario to facilitate an in-depth exploration of numerous factors related to victim safety and risk of future domestic violence. The checklist includes a review of domestic violence risk factors used by police in Ontario as well as domestic violence lethality and recidivism research. The interview focuses on a number of areas:

  • History of the relationship;
  • Details of the family composition including questions pertaining to children, where applicable;
  • Issues of power and control revealed by the behavior of the accused in the relationship;
  • The victim's perception of risk;
  • The risk factor checklist completed by the police.

5.4 Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER)

The Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER) was developed collaboratively by the British Columbia Institute Against Family Violence, P. Randall Kropp, Ph.D., Stephen D. Hart, Ph.D., Henrik Belfrage, Ph.D. and the Department of Justice Canada.

The development of the B-SAFER tool was based on a number of objectives: to facilitate the work of criminal justice professionals in assessing risk in spousal violence cases, guide the professionals to obtain relevant information necessary to assess level of risk, assist victims in safety planning and ultimately work to prevent future harm and more critical incidents.

This tool includes a checklist of ten (10) risk factors[8] and an interview guide. The first five (5) risk factors relate to a person’s history of intimate partner violence:

  • 1. Violent Acts
  • 2. Violent Threat or Thoughts
  • 3. Escalation
  • 4. Violations of Court Orders
  • 5. Violent Attitudes

The second section relates to a person’s history of psychological (personal) and social (interpersonal) adjustment problems:

  • 6. General Criminality
  • 7. Intimate Relationship Problems
  • 8. Employment Problems
  • 9. Substance Use Problems
  • 10. Mental Health Problems

The B-SAFER also includes a Recommended Risk Management Strategies section regarding monitoring/surveillance, control/supervision, assessment/treatment and victim safety planning in addition to a conclusory opinions section regarding case prioritization, life-threatening violence, imminent violence and likely victims.

In New Brunswick, B-SAFER is being used by the Moncton Domestic Violence Court and RCMP and municipal police departments.[9] British Columbia has adopted a revised B-SAFER, under exclusive licence, that includes a section containing specific questions concerning victim vulnerability factors.

For more information on this tool, please refer to the following websites. http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/fl-lf/famil/rr05_fv1-rr05_vf1/index.html (date accessed: June 6, 2013)

http://www.proactive-resolutions.com/ (date accessed: June 6, 2013.)

5.5 Court Information Package

In Prince Edward Island, all municipal police departments and the RCMP currently use a Court Information Package designed specifically to capture specific information in domestic violence cases.

5.6 Cross-sectoral memoranda on domestic violence

In accordance with the 2012–2017 Québec government action plan on domestic violence, the Québec Ministry of Health and Social Services, through the Agences de Santé et de Services sociaux, is in charge of coordinating the roundtables entitled << Tables de concertation intersectorielle en matière de violence conjugale >>. These cross-sectoral tables on domestic violence exist in 16 regions of Québec and bring together all partners working in domestic violence intervention (health and social services, police services, judicial services, correctional services, education stakeholders and community partners). In most regions of Québec, the partners have signed memoranda of understanding to work together to protect victims of domestic violence and their loved ones.

5.7 Danger Assessment

The Danger Assessment is used by Victim Services and domestic violence intervenors in New Brunswick. In Nova Scotia, staff of transition houses, Victim Services and Child Welfare Services (under Department of Community Services) are trained to use the Danger Assessment tool, developed by Jacquelyn Campbell, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N. from the United States. The use of this tool is part of the collaborative process through the High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework. Information sharing is initiated with relevant agencies if any of the primary service providers designate a file as high risk.

The Danger Assessment tool is comprised of two parts: the first portion of the tool evaluates severity and frequency of abuse by providing the woman with a calendar of the previous year. The woman is asked to mark dates of past abuse on a calendar. Incidents are ranked from least to most severe. Indicators include: slapping, pushing, punching, kicking, bruises, “beating up”
(i.e. burns, broken bones and miscarriage), threat to use a weapon and finally, use of a weapon with wounds.

The second portion of the tool is a 20-item instrument which includes a weighted scoring system to count yes/no responses of risk factors linked with intimate partner homicide.

For more information, please refer to the following website: http://www.dangerassessment.org/DATools.aspx (date accessed: June 7, 2013.)

5.8 Decision-Making Assessment Protocol for Domestic Violence (D-MAP DV)

The D-MAP-DV (a tool to assist in decision making regarding changes to provisions of no contact orders) was developed by Guy Bourgon, Public Safety Canada and Probation Services, Community & Correctional Services PEI for the use of PEI probation officers. The guide aids probation officers and/or other individuals who are faced with these types of decisions in decision making in cases where there are conditions related to “no contact except at the discretion of the Probation Officer.”

5.9 Provincial Court- Domestic Violence, Moncton

In Moncton, New Brunswick, a Domestic Violence Coordinating Team was developed as part of the Domestic Violence Court Project. The team includes a Crown prosecutor, a probation officer, a victim services coordinator, a court coordinator, legal aid services and police agencies. Weekly communication occurs on cases appearing in court for sentencing, court monitoring of an offender’s sentence or when there is a request to change a contact condition order between the victim and the accused.

A Domestic Violence Court Docket is circulated weekly to the social workers and all involved in the Domestic Violence Court, in order to facilitate a coordinated response for domestic violence files. Social workers provide a court coordinator with the status of their case (i.e., court orders and their intervention plan) before the Court of Queen's Bench which is intended to prevent conflicting court orders coming from the Court of Queen's Bench and the Provincial Court. It also allows a judge to make a more informed decision and avoids duplication or lack of intervention. The court coordinator is responsible for sharing this information with the Domestic Violence Coordinating Team.

5.10 Domestic Violence Inventory (DVI)

The Domestic Violence Inventory, developed by Behaviour Data Systems Ltd., is used as an optional tool by Community Corrections personnel in the province of Nova Scotia, to assess risk and need levels of offenders charged with a domestic violence offence. When a case is categorized as high risk for lethality, spousal/intimate partner violence is flagged and case management strategies specific to domestic violence are implemented. All offenders charged with domestic violence must attend a domestic violence educational program.

This self administered tool includes six scales: Truthfulness Scale, Violence Scale, Control Scale, Alcohol Scale, Drugs Scale and Stress Copies Abilities Scale. The results of the DVI support the general/overall risk assessment provided by the Level of Service Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI) and are also included in pre-sentence and post-sentence reports.

For more information on the Domestic Violence Inventory, please visit the following website. http://www.bdsltd.com/TestsA_DVI.asp (date accessed: June 7, 2013.)


  • [7] Reprinted with permission.
  • [8] Reprinted with permission.
  • [9] Municipal police across New Brunswick are transitioning to a single risk assessment tool, ODARA.

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