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Specialist knowledge across sectors – Domestic Violence Victoria

Specialist knowledge across sectors – Domestic Violence Victoria

A smiling mother with her young teenaged daughter embracing her from behind. In the background there is a complex woven piece of art.

This article features in the December 2018 edition of DVRCV Advocate.

We spoke to Domestic Violence Victoria, Women’s Legal Service Victoria and inTouch about their specialist expertise, why it’s important to embed specialisation in the system and how it could look in future.

Domestic Violence Victoria

In our submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) described the important role of the specialist family violence services at the heart of the family violence system. We recommended that the skills, knowledge and practice expertise of specialist family violence services should lead reform for a fully effective response. Why? Because the discipline of specialist family violence services is not a typical social service response to individual experience; rather, it is part of a global movement to transform the conditions of society that make violence possible in the first place. If we do indeed wish to rid society of family violence, then the transformative, social justice response offered by specialist family violence services is a critical platform for this change.

Family violence practitioners are working hard every day to counter the effects of oppressive violence and create shifts toward social change. They do this by working within an evidence-based, feminist, human rights, and trauma-informed practice framework. This framework recognises that family violence is fundamentally derived from an abuse of power enabled by gender and social inequities situated in the structures of patriarchy, colonisation, racism, ableism and other interlocking forms of oppression.

Specialist family violence services enact this practice framework through:

  1. Working in partnership with victim survivors, respecting their rights, agency and expertise in their lived experience;
  2. Locating responsibility for violence with the perpetrator and advocating for systemic responses that promote accountability and the cessation of abuse;
  3. Engaging in complex processes of risk assessment, safety planning and service navigation; and
  4. Providing tailored case management and therapeutic support programs for adults, children and young people.

The Royal Commission identified the importance of making family violence everyone’s responsibility. We couldn’t agree more. Family violence is a high-demand and wide-reaching problem that necessitates a coordinated, multi-agency and whole-of-community response. There is a risk, however, when reform tends towards top-down approaches and prioritising a generalist service response. This can result in sidelining specialist family violence services and leaving victim survivors without the unique professional capabilities offered by family violence practitioners. It also ignores the evidence that a response to the complex and disempowering experience of family violence requires the type of specialisation described above. For these reasons, we must ensure that specialisation is positioned at the heart of the systemic response to family violence.

At DV Vic, we are reviewing the sector’s Code of Practice to re-invigorate the practice framework and standards required to further innovate the specialist response. We believe the key to this is embedding a gender-informed, intersectionality lens into the framework to increase service accessibility for those who face particular forms of social injustice and to keep shifting toward the social change required to end family violence.

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This article features in the December 2018 edition of The Advocate. Download article (PDF)