Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science

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The development of the VP-SAFvR: An actuarial instrument for police triage of Australian family violence reports

This study describes the rationale, development, and validation of the Victoria Police Screening Assessment for Family Violence Risk (VP-SAFvR). The actuarial instrument was developed on a sample of 24,446 Australian police reports from 2013-2014. Information from each report and criminal histories of those involved were collected with 12-month follow-up, and binary logistic regression used to develop an improper predictive model. The selected VP-SAFvR cut-off score correctly identified almost three quarters of cases with further reports, while half of those without were accurately excluded. It was effective for frontline police triage decision-making, with few screened-out cases reporting further family violence, while those screened-in required additional risk assessment. Predictive validity was adequate and consistent across family relationships and demographic groups, although it was less effective in predicting future family violence reports involving same-sex couples or child perpetrators. Further evalu…

Author: McEwan, Troy E., Shea, Daniel E., Ogloff, James R. P.
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Journal article (In press)
Status: Live|Last updated:18 October 2018 4:12 PM
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Indigenous perspectives on violence risk assessment: A thematic analysis

Violence risk instruments are widely employed with at-risk minority clients in correctional and forensic mental health settings. However, the construction and subsequent validation of such instruments rarely, if at all, incorporate the perceptions, worldviews, life experiences, and belief systems of non-white communities. This study utilized a culturally informed qualitative approach to address the cross-cultural disparities in the forensic risk literature. Cultural perspectives on violence risk assessment were elicited from a sample of 30 American Indian and First Nations professionals from health, legal, and pedagogical sectors following an inspection of the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth instrument. Generally, participants believed that the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth instrument was not culturally appropriate for use with American Indian and First Nations youth in its current form. Recurrent themes of concern included the instrument’s negative labeling capacity, lack of…

Author: Shepherd, Stephane M., Willis-Esqueda, Cynthia
Publication year: 2017
Publication type: Journal article (In press)
Status: Live|Last updated:18 October 2018 3:28 PM
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Child sexual abuse and criminal offending: Gender-specific effects and the role of abuse characteristics and other adverse outcomes

This study sought to enhance knowledge of the link between child sexual abuse (CSA) and long-term criminality by investigating gender-specific effects and the role of index sexual abuse characteristics, revictimization, and serious mental health problems. An Australian sample of 2,759 documented cases of sexual abuse and 2,677 community controls were linked to statewide police records and public mental health service databases, with a follow-up period of 13–44 years. Four key findings emerged from the analysis: (1) CSA victims were more likely than controls to engage in all types of criminal behaviors including violent, sexual, and other offending; (2) gender moderated the relationship between CSA and criminal offending, with stronger associations found among females for general and violent offending, and among males for sexual offending; (3) certain features of the index sexual abuse (i.e., developmental period, number of perpetrators, relation to perpetrator), further victimization experiences, and the deve…

Author: Papalia, Nina, Ogloff, James R. P., Cutajar, Margaret, Mullen, Paul E.
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Journal article
Status: Live|Last updated:18 October 2018 2:55 PM
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Responding to the needs of prisoners with learning difficulties in Australia

Offenders who are convicted of a crime in Australia are encouraged to participate in educational and vocational training programs during their time in prison. However, one of the significant challenges encountered by not only prisoners who enroll in educational and vocational training programs, but also for the staff who teach into these programs, are prisoners who experience learning difficulties. Prison teachers and other staff are ordinarily unaware of which offenders experience such difficulties. Given that unidentified learning difficulties are associated with poor educational, employment and psychological outcomes, it is critical that prisoners who experience specific learning difficulties are identified, and that educational and vocational training programs offered in prisons cater for the diverse learning needs of all prisoners. This review highlights issues with the identification of learning difficulties and proposes methods of supporting prisoners who experience learning difficulties and the people…

Author: Skues, Jason, Pfeifer, Jeffrey, Oliva, Alfie, Wise, Lisa
Publication year: 2019
Publication type: Journal article
Status: Live|Last updated:15 October 2018 3:32 PM
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Public stranger violence - what makes you vulnerable? A comparison of perspectives from young adults and industry experts

The purpose of this study was to determine the situational and individual factors that influence vulnerability to public stranger violence (PSV) from the perspective of young adults and industry professionals. In total, 25 young adults aged between 18 and 29 years formed one sample and participated in one of four focus groups. The second sample consisted of 10 industry professionals with backgrounds in policing, corrections, and forensic psychology. Each professional participated in an individual semistructured interview. Both samples were asked questions regarding vulnerability and safety in public, where responses were analyzed using a thematic analysis. Multiple themes were identified and categorized into situational and individual factors associated with victimization. Situational factors referred to aspects of the environment that may influence vulnerability to PSV and included visibility, location, and level of support for potential victims. Individual factors referred to aspects about the person that m…

Author: Maxwell, Lucy, Skues, Jason, Wise, Lisa, Theiler, Stephen, Pfeifer, Je...
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Journal article (In press)
Status: Live|Last updated:15 October 2018 2:32 PM
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An analysis of high-risk offending pathways for young females in custody

Adolescent females who have engaged in severe and/or chronic offending are an understudied population internationally. The literature on female offending pathways has indeed advanced, and there is a better understanding of how female offending behaviours manifest and how correctional agencies should be responding. However, much of the existing research has focused on the risk factors and retrospective biographical narratives of adult female offenders. The present study focused on thematically exploring the selfreported life experiences and offending pathways of 36 detained adolescent females. Findings identified multiple themes including disconnection from education, early caregiver disruption/family separation, personal and family mental health problems, polysubstance abuse, anti-social peers, victimisation and anger problems. The study identifies that early family disruption is an important factor that may contribute to later offending behaviour and other negative life events. Prevention efforts should begi…

Author: Shepherd, Stephane M., Newton, Danielle, Harries, Cieran, Fix, Rebecca...
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Journal article (In press)
Status: Live|Last updated:11 October 2018 4:55 PM
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Predictors of distress and the protective impact of cultural engagement for Indigenous prisoners

This study sought to identify the salient factors prompting increased levels of psychological distress for 87 Indigenous people in custody in Victoria, Australia. The protective qualities of cultural engagement in buffering distress were also examined. A series of analyses were employed to determine if selected stressor variables and cultural engagement were associated with distress. Having a family member or close friend pass away and perceived discrimination were strong predictors of distress. Being culturally engaged was negatively associated with distress. Results indicate the need for correctional facilities to commit to providing non-discriminatory custodial environments and culturally safe service delivery.

Author: Shepherd, Stephane M., Hazel Delgado, Rosa, Sivasubramanian, Diane, Pa...
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Journal article (In press)
Status: Live|Last updated:9 October 2018 6:32 PM
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Identifying the prevalence and predictors of suicidal behaviours for indigenous males in custody

Background High rates of suicidal behaviours among Indigenous Australians have been documented. Justice-involved individuals are also at a higher risk for engaging in suicidal behaviours. This study sought to ascertain the prevalence and correlates of suicidal behaviours for 107 Indigenous adult males in custody in Victoria, Australia. Methods Participants undertook a structured interview comprising a psychiatric assessment. Information on suicidal behaviours (ideation and attempts), socio-demographics, environmental stressors, negative life events and mental health was obtained. Results A high proportion of Indigenous males in custody experienced lifetime suicidal ideation (63.7%) and over one-half had attempted suicide (54.5%). A smaller, yet significant number of participants experienced ideation over the past 12 months (27.9%). Having a loved one pass away within the past 12 months predicted recent ideation; lifetime ideation and a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder predicted a lifetime suicide a…

Author: Shepherd, Stephane M., Spivak, Benjamin, Arabena, Kerry, Paradies, Yin
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Journal article
Status: Live|Last updated:9 October 2018 4:32 PM
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Reassessing the link between stalking and intimate partner abuse

The relationship between intimate partner abuse (IPA) and post-relationship stalking is poorly understood and estimates of how often these behaviours co-occur vary widely. This paper examines and consolidates findings from extant research and provides a rigorously ascertained baseline estimate of the prevalence of IPA amongst ex-intimate stalkers. 115 male participants who stalked 118 separate victims were recruited from a specialist forensic clinic in Melbourne, Australia, between 2004 and 2007 and 2010 and 2013. Prior IPA was ascertained using information from participants and police records of family violence incidents obtained in July 2014. Prior IPA against the stalking victim was identified in 39 cases (33.1%). Criminal history, prior physical violence to other victims, SCID-II diagnosed personality disorder, and sharing children were significantly associated with IPA during the prior relationship. Multivariate modelling showed that the combination of a history of violence towards other people and shari…

Author: McEwan, Troy E., Shea, Daniel E., Nazarewicz, Julia, Senkans, Svenja
Publication year: 2017
Publication type: Journal article
Status: Live|Last updated:5 October 2018 12:44 PM
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Australian adolescents’ experiences of intimate partner abuse and violence

International research has shown that intimate partner abuse affects many young people throughout adolescence. Despite the recent focus on family and intimate partner violence in Australia, there is almost no Australian data on the frequency or nature of youth intimate partner abuse (YIPA). The current study sought to better understand the frequency and nature of YIPA in Australian adolescents by recruiting 423 participants aged between 14 and 18 from Victorian high schools during 2016 and 2017. Each participant completed an anonymous questionnaire in which they reported their experiences of YIPA victimisation and perpetration. The results showed high rates of both victimisation and perpetration among boys and girls who had been in intimate relationships. Approximately 38% reported being victims of severe YIPA during their most difficult relationship (behaviour involving significant physical violence or sexual violence, or very frequent psychological abuse), and 27% reported perpetrating such behaviour. As wa…

Author: Daff, Elizabeth, McEwan, Troy, Luebbers, Stefan
Publication year: 2018
Publication type: Conference paper
Status: Live|Last updated:1 October 2018 1:32 PM
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