What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic abuse is any incident of violence or threatening behavior, especially by family members or intimate partners, irrespective of gender (Stark, 2012). The Home Office (2012) defines domestic abuse as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, threatening behavior, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender and sexuality”. Stalking can be defined as ‘unwanted pursuit of another person whereby the perpetrator may harass or threaten the victim.’ Honor-based violence is a crime or incident that has or may have been committed in defense of the honor of the family or the community. The abuse may be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial and may encompass all of the above. The nature and extent of domestic abuse remain appalling. Keeling, Van, and Taylor (2015) assert that in every four people in the U.K. young population (10 to 24years), one has gone through domestic child abuse. Further, ONS (2016) adds that domestic abuse is significantly higher in women than men. CSEW supports that 24.9% of women compared to 10% of males between the age of 16 and 59 have been victims of partner abuse, even if it is on one occasion from the age of 16. The Office of National Statistics (2018) statistics indicated that 6.3% of women had gone through partner abuse either once or more times in the previous year. Further, police records show that by the end of that year, there were more than 5999,549 crimes related to domestic abuse in Wales and England, with an added 598,545 incidents not categorized as crimes (ONS, 2016). There was a substantial rise in the number of crimes recorded by the police by 23%, while the incidents rate declined towards the end of that year. Further, the police recordings and the CSEW measure of domestic abuse highly differ. Oliver et al. (2019) agree the greater extent and effect of domestic abuse remain concealed.
Previous reviews on how the police handle domestic abuse-related crimes have prompted radical changes in the structure of the police and presented recommendations in the police officers’ practices (Robinson et al., 2016). The most common empirical research that identified revictimization risk factors ignited several police agencies in enforcing ‘the use of risk checklists at the initial response to domestic abuse calls” (Stark, 2012). Consequently, there was the adoption of the tools in the U.K. and USA police departments in identifying the popular risk factors for lethality and re-abuse. A monumental change was made in 2009 (Oliver et al., 2019), whereby the national policing recommended a risk model for supporting and improving the police response to domestic abuse cases. The risk model is referred to as “Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour-Based violence risk identification, assessment and management model (DASH) (Oliver et al., 2019). Laura Richards, ACPO, is the one who developed the DASH risk assessment in collaboration with CAADA (Coordinated Action against Domestic Abuse). According to Robinson et al. (2016), the positive effects from various risk tools formed the backbone for the development of DASH. Hence, DASH is a “risk-led’ framework, a domestic approach that has been embraced broadly over the last decades.
In Wales and England, DASH is the most commonly used approach in domestic abuse risk-led policing. According to Robinson (2010), this panel of multi-agencies experts formulated a DASH risk assessment tool containing 24 questions aimed at capturing domestic abuse risk factors consistent in the literature review. The responding officers who are first present at the scene where the domestic abuse has taken place ask the victims questions about the incident. Briones-Robinson, Powers, and Socia (2016) add that the responding officer also records the presence or absence of a given risk factor. DASH has 24 questions with text sections below every question where the officers must fill in contextual data.
Almond et al. (2017) support that DASH consolidated inclusions based on clinical insights from variant risk tools previously used in Walers and England. Robinson (2010) adds that the DASH tool is an approach that is more than a “risk-led’ framework” and more of a “structured professional judgement” framework. Discretion is utilized; DASH scores, which are the total count of the risk factors present in a domestic abuse incident, determine that risk grading is either high, medium, or standard (Robinson, 2010). The standard risk levels from 1 to 9 indicate less likelihood of adverse harm from the available evidence. Medium risk levels ranging from 10 to 13 signify the potential of adverse harm (Briones-Robinson, Powers, and Socia, 2016). In this situation, the perpetrator’s the potential to cause substantial harm only when the circumstances change. It may include when the perpetrator engages in drug misuse, relationship failure, and lack of medication adherence. On the other hand, high-risk levels of above 14 reveal identifiable indicators that serious harm will occur at any time and the effect will be extremely serious. Nonetheless, CAADA indicates that scores of 14 and above are correctly classified but equally stresses professional judgment requiring that the officers undertake an individual risk assessment (2012) as earlier indicated classification of an event as high risk has serious implications as it influences the level of support and intervention services that should be allocated (Briones-Robinson, Powers, and Socia, 2016; Turner, Medina, and Brown, 2019).
Police Response including the use of DASH
Kebbell (2019) agrees with HMIC (2017) that in the past, the response of the police to domestic disturbances has been based on noncriminal issues whose solutions were based placed at the family level. However, in the recent decade, there have been major changes in attitude toward domestic violence both by society and the criminal justice system perpetrator (Sebire and Barling, 2016). There is now a major expectation on the first responding officer to efficiently handle offenders, manage the safety of the evidence and obtain evidence.
HMIC (2017) indicates a highly substantial rise of 88% of the recorded rates of domestic abuse for the previous 12months preceding this year, based on a phone record survey. One of the major contributors to this remarkable change is the police’s positive attitudes in responding to domestic abuse. More victims are coming forward to report their incidences which are linked to the improved change in the police of given the issue the seriousness it deserves (Kebbell, 2019). Further, the police are now more accurately recording the crimes and the enhanced commitment by force in dealing with such crimes. A study by Robinson et al. (2016) agrees that more understanding of the DASH tool has also enabled the officers to accurately predict the risk of a crime occurring and undertake the necessary precautions. A review of more than 350 practitioners working closely with the domestic abuse victims revealed a significant improvement in the approach of the police towards domestic abuse that is 63% of these members (HMIC, 2017). The majority acknowledges that the police continue to increase their commitment towards addressing domestic abuse in the larger context by offering support to the vulnerable individuals ensuring their safety.
Pease and colleagues (2014) criticize that although the DASH tool is classified as an “evidenced-based” approach that “saves lives’, the published research that estimates the error of classification arising from this still is so scant. The available data is not sufficient to deduce that DASH classification is satisfactory good. Ewin, Bates, and Taylor (2020) agree there is lack of substantial research on the impact of DASH tool in crime prevention. Findings from studies by Almond and colleagues (2017) have shown that only a small number of factors DASH measures are linked with “recidivism.” Further studies by Thornton (2017) revealed that the risk grading by DASH are poor predictors of the subsequent occurrence of homicide. Robinson et al., (2016) in their recent study from crime survey have shown that the DASH tool application in the frontline is not applicable and is often subject to numerous errors during the recording stage which ultimately contaminates the grading process and subsequent course of action (HMIC, 2014). Further, HMIC inspection of 2014 reviewed the response of the police toward domestic abuse revealing extensive issues in performance in relation to identifying risk and its assessment. Hoyle and Sanders (2017) supported the earlier studies on that there is lack of uniformity in practice across different police forces and Department.
Positive and negative results for the police
According to Ewin, Bates, and Taylor (2020), one of the police’s integral roles is to prevent crime and disorder. Day, Jenner, and Weir (2018) and Millar 2019) criticize that domestic abuse leads to serious harm and contributes significantly to a greater proportion of crime. The cost of domestic abuse to society is approximately $15.7 billion annually. The number of people killed due to domestic abuse is equally alarming, with an example of 2012 and 2013 whereby seventy-seven women were killed by either their current or ex-partner. Of the total number of recorded crimes, domestic-related crimes make up eight percent. Bland (2020) supports Day, Jenner, and Weir (2018), noting that every 30 seconds, the police get an emergency call that is linked to domestic violence, highlighting the gravity of this issue. Some other parties and agencies have partial responsibility in tackling domestic abuse and keeping the victims safe (Bland, 2020). However, Kebbell (2019) identifies that though the sole duty of reducing domestic violence does not rest in the police, they play an important role in the management of domestic abuse. The response of the police to domestic abuse has been a controversial issue, with a given number of scholars presenting the major improvements in tackling domestic abuse while Baldry and Sebire (2016) have contrary opinions.
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