Inventory of Spousal Violence Risk Assessment Tools Used in Canada

5. Description of Tools, Investigative Checklists and Protocols (continued)

5.33 Spousal/Partner Abuse, Assault Court Package Supplement

The RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador complete this form for Prosecution Services in the province. It includes relevant factors relating to previous incidents of violence and history of court orders. It is attached to case files and used in bail hearings.

5.34 Stalking Assessment and Management (SAM)

The Stalking Assessment and Management Guidelines manual was created by P. Randall Kropp, Ph.D., Stephen D. Hart, Ph.D., and David R. Lyon, Ph.D. It is based on structured professional guidelines for assessing stalking. This tool includes a number of assessment items which are categorized under three main areas: the nature of stalking, the perpetrator’s risk factors and the victim’s vulnerability factors.

The administration of the SAM includes a number of steps including: identifying information, factors present, scenarios of stalking, case management plan and case prioritization.

In the province of Alberta, the SAM is used by police, the RCMP and the Integrated Risk and Threat Assessment Centre (I-TRAC). In British Columbia, the SAM is used by the Domestic Violence and Criminal Harassment Unit of the Vancouver Police Department and by the Behavioural Sciences Unit of the RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia.

For more information on this tool, please refer to the following website: http://www.proactive-resolutions.com/ (date accessed June 7, 2013.)

5.35 Summary of Domestic Violence Risk Factors (Police Online Training Investigative Job Aid)

This resource is intended to be used as an investigative job aid for frontline police officers in British Columbia when conducting evidence-based, risk-focused domestic violence investigations. A job aid was selected rather than a prescriptive tool or checklist as this was considered the best fit for front-line police application. The investigative job aid is an adaptation of materials developed for a pilot project in the province and was reviewed and approved by an inter-ministerial working group established to create the online course in 2009. The job aid is intended to be used to guide investigations as well as organize and document information for bail hearings and Reports to Crown Counsel.

The job aid is a summary of some of the risk factors that have been associated with an increased likelihood of future violence in relationships. Risk factors are divided into four categories: 1. Relationship History 2. Complainant's Perceptions of Risk, 3. Suspect History, and 4. Access to Weapons/Firearms.

5.36 Tool to assess the safety of victims of domestic violence and of their loved ones

This tool was developed and validated as part of the cross-sectoral Carrefour Sécurité en violence conjugale project under way in the Mauricie–Centre-du-Québec region. The tool makes it possible to assess the risk of the safety of victims and of their loved ones being compromised, to contextualize and explain actuarial and clinical indicators, to perform fact-based assessments and analyses based on a combination of indicators, to take protective factors into account, to adapt interventions accordingly and to carry out continuous safety assessments.

To access the document, contact the Carrefour Sécurité en violence conjugale: http://cyber.collegeshawinigan.qc.ca/1012479/CSVC/mission/mission.html

5.37 Threat Assessment Questions for Field Personnel

The Threat Assessment Questions for Field Personnel was created by the Domestic Violence and Criminal Harassment Unit of the Vancouver Police Department. Thirteen (13) risk factors[19] are included in this investigative guide.

Threat Assessment Questions for Field Personnel

  • Current Status of Relationship:
    • Are there past, recent/pending separations?
    • During separations has the accused stalked/harassed victim?
    • Has the accused displayed jealous behaviors?
  • History of Violence/Abuse in Relationship:
    • Has there been physical/sexual/verbal/emotional/financial abuse and has abuse escalated in the last 12 months?
    • Has the victim ever required medical attention?
  • Assaults/Threats:
    • Has the accused ever hurt, injured/threatened to hurt victim, a family member, another person/animal?
    • Does the accused use extreme minimization or denial of assaultive behavior?
  • Weapons:
    • Has the accused ever used weapons against victim or threatened to use weapons?
    • Does the accused own a firearm or have plans to acquire a firearm?
  • Children:
    • Have children witnessed the abuse by accused?
    • Have children been abused?
    • Has the Ministry of Children and Family Development been involved with the family?
  • Abduction:
    • Has the accused ever abducted/threatened to abduct children?
  • Strangulation:
    • Has the accused ever strangled or bitten the victim?
  • Employment:
    • Has the accused employment history changed during the last 12 months?
    • Does the accused have problems maintaining employment?
  • Criminal Status:
    • Is the accused currently before the courts?
    • Has the accused ever violated a court order including Peace Bond or no contact?
  • Substance Abuse:
    • Is the accused currently using alcohol/drugs?
    • Is substance abuse escalating?
    • Does violence increase when the accused has been consuming?
  • Mental Health/Suicide:
    • Does the accused have a mental illness?
    • Has the accused ever expressed homicidal/suicidal ideas?
    • Has the accused ever attempted suicide?
  • Thoughts and Plans of Violence:
    • Hasthe accused ever made serious threats, committed acts of stalking/made plans to harm others?
  • Victim Vulnerability:
    • Is the victim socially/physically isolated, unwilling to leave home?
    • What is the victim’s perception of personal safety?
    • What are the cultural barriers to getting help?

5.38 Violence in Relationship Investigative Checklist

This checklist is used by RCMP investigators in Newfoundland and Labrador to assist in determining heightened risk to victims. It is attached to all spousal/relationship files and is used to help inform the case history of any previous incidents of violence. It is also used to develop integrated and cooperative community partner strategies with victim services in order to manage the risk to victims.

5.39 Violence in Relationships – Investigative Procedures Guide

This tool is used in British Columbia by RCMP "E" Division as an investigational and risk assessment guide. The guide assists members in clearly documenting investigative procedures in violence in relationship cases. Importantly, part 2 of the procedures has the investigating members canvassing the victim on 19 risk factors as part of the interview of every domestic violence victims. This structures the police response to a victim-centred, safety-focused approach.

The guide includes the following sections, with relevant questions:

  1. Evidence and Information Gathering
  2. Statement and Risk Assessment Components
  3. Safety Planning
  4. Arrest, Court and Release
  5. Monitoring

The tool has been embedded within RCMP "E" Division policy since February 2011 and it is required to be applied in every domestic violence investigation. While the tool itself has not been validated, most of the risk factors on which it is based have been tested and validated. The purpose of the tool is to alert the investigating police to risk factors to guide their decision-making. The tool is available on police mobile work stations and comprises part of the investigational file. It is also available in a laminated police notebook size, so members can have this guide at scene to utilize during the investigation.

5.40 Woman Abuse Protocols

In Prince Edward Island, Woman/Spousal Abuse Protocols have been developed in the following sectors: Police, Probation Services, Victim Services, Adult Custody, Family Law Centre, Clinical Services, Turning Point Program, Financial Assistance and Hospital Emergency Rooms.

For more information on the Woman Abuse Protocols in Prince Edward Island, please refer to the following website: http://www.cliapei.ca/content/page/resources_wap/ (date accessed: October 22, 2013.)

5.41 Yellowknife Interagency Family Violence Protocol

This interagency protocol outlines how individuals or organizations can work together when they investigate a family violence incident in the Northwest Territories. The eight agencies involved in the protocol include the: YWCA Alison McAteer House (local family violence shelter), Centre for Northern Families, Public Prosecution Service of Canada, NWT Regional Office, Yellowknife RCMP Detachment, Stanton Territorial Health Authority, Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, Canada/NWT Service Centre, Income Security Programs and Yellowknife Victim Services.

The protocol increases information-sharing and interagency collaboration with the goal of increasing victim safety. The implementation of this protocol is in its early stages. However, it is working towards contributing to the development of models and strategies to improve the criminal justice system response to family violence.

6. Conclusion

During the course of this project, respondents from all provinces and territories have expressed different challenges, needs and levels of resources in their jurisdictions regarding spousal violence risk assessments and other types of tools. Based on these comments and concerns, it was evident that there are wide variations in terms of how jurisdictions across Canada are able or are structured to respond to the complexity of spousal violence cases.

Despite these differences, a consistent message became quite clear. According to our respondents, the level of effectiveness in reducing risk in spousal violence and improving subsequent safety plans for victims is inextricably linked to the following issues:

  1. Developing or improving the coordination of services and information-sharing through protocols;
  2. Making interdisciplinary training available to all stakeholders; and,
  3. Coordinating risk assessments, practices and operations among all criminal justice personnel and social/victim services.

There is a notable overlap in terms of the use of specific tools across the country. At the same time, many jurisdictions have expressed interest in developing and eventually implementing standard practices across the country with regards to spousal violence risk assessment tools. This report will contribute to further discussions at the federal, provincial and territorial levels on the issue of risk assessment tools and maximizing safety for victims of spousal violence.


[19] Reprinted with permission.

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