The detection of domestic violence through routine assessment at drug and alcohol treatment centres

Criminology Research Council grant ; (26/93-4)

This project was undertaken in five clinics, both public and private, specialising in the longer term treatment of substance abuse, in the Sydney metropolitan area. It examined the prevalence of both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence amongst more than 250 clients of the drug and alcohol clinics. By using both semi-structured interviews and standardised self-completion questionnaires, the investigators were able to determine psychodemographic characteristics for both victims and perpetrators.

A very high prevalence of both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence amongst clients of the clinics was found. A large proportion of clients were in mutually violent relationships. The inter-relationship between domestic violence and substance abuse was found to be important in a number of ways. The influence of the family of origin was strong, both in terms of exposure to parental drug and alcohol use and experiencing or witnessing parental violence.

The investigators developed an educational package designed to better inform staff about domestic violence, to increase detection rates and to improve management responses such as the instigation of changes to intake procedures and the addition of a clinical program component for both staff and clients. Subsequent assessment of the educational program found that more victims and perpetrators were being identified and that this was occurring at an earlier stage of the admission.