6. DIAGNOSIS AND RISK ASSESSMENT

Risk Assessment is part of a complex diagnosis which usually should be done before deciding about taking in a perpetrator. Generally semi-standardised interviews and questionnaires are used to make a diagnosis. Both should cover at least

  • personality,
  • forms of violence,
  • history of violence,
  • state of being of taking over responsibility,
  • alcohol and substance abuse,
  • circumstances of present living situation (e.g. unemployment, same-sex partnership),
  • motivation to join training.
  • experience of violence/abuse in life of perpetrator

An assessment of the personality of perpetrator needs to make sure that for example in case of social/cognitive training classes the participant does not show any clinical psychological disorder. Those classes are designed for “healthy” people with social misbehaviour. Clinical cases should be in good hands of psychotherapists or even medical clinics. Further, forms of violence noticed to find out more about severity and history of violence takes a closer look at probable escalation of violence. For taking part at a social/cognitive training it is indispensable to show at least a minimum of willingness to take over responsibility for exerted violence. Alcohol and/or substance abuse are not only increasing risk of reassault but it also needs to be decided if the participant should first control addiction and take part at class later on since participants should be drug-free at class. Present living situation may be a risk factor as well if perpetrator is unemployed, step-children are living in the same house etc. It needs to be found out about stabilizing and de-stabilizing factors which might increase or decrease chance of change. Further, participant should be supported in strengthening stabilizing factors, for example increasing his chances at the labour market etc. Finally, the motivation of perpetrator joining e.g. a training class should be illuminated. Research shows that court mandated participants show a higher rate in finishing trainings than volunteers or ‘partner-mandated’ members (Gondolf 2002). Finally, we recommend semi-structured interview about history of violence in life of perpetrator, since experience of violence/abuse in childhood may have an impact on bonding in partnership as well as expectations toward the partner.
Generally, risk assessment contains two aspects, first methods of assessing risk and second, managing risk. Since a vast majority of perpetrators and offenders of crime and violence is male, research on risk assessment focuses on male perpetrators. Again, vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence also is male; risk assessment focuses here on male perpetrators as well. Understanding risk assessment means to know WHO is assessing WHICH risk. Thus, several considerations should be taken into account:

The context of use of risk assessment: the context depends on which organisation is assessing risk: a judge deciding about mandating offender to training, a social service deciding about intake of perpetrator into a program, police deciding about escalation and future violence or a counselling service providing case management (risk of reassault and escalation of violence) and/or groups for perpetrators, etc.
The purpose of risk assessment: Is it used to evaluate a client for intake, to predict further violence (reassault and recidivism), assess risk of lethality or to exclude the person from service, etc.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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