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The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA) Stephen D. Hart Simon Fraser University.

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Presentation on theme: "The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA) Stephen D. Hart Simon Fraser University."— Presentation transcript:



3 The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA) Stephen D. Hart Simon Fraser University

4 Part 1 Introduction

5 Spousal Assault n Actual, attempted, or threatened harm perpetrated against a current or former intimate partner u includes fear-inducing behavior(stalking) u ignores gender of victim and perpetrator u ignores legal status of intimate relationship

6 SA as a Choice n The proximal cause of spousal assault is a decision to act violently n The decision is influenced by a host of biological, psychological, and social factors u Neurological insult, hormonal abnormality u Psychosis, personality disorder u Exposure to violent models, attitudes that condone violence

7 Prevalence n Spousal assault (SA) is a major threat to the well-being of women u lifetime risk of victimization is about 25% u one-year risk of victimization is about 12% u accounts for about 50% of all violent crimes reported to police u at least 25-35% of all adult male offenders are known to have committed spousal assault u recidivism rate of perpetrators is substantial

8 Issue n Domestic violence is a greater problem in the criminal justice system than any other form of violence, including robbery, sexual violence, or stalking n Risk assessment is a cornerstone of offender management u Sentencing and release decisions u Treatment planning u Safety planning for survivors

9 Role of SA Risk Assessment n Criminal justice u Charges, bail, sentencing, correctional programming, probation, parole, restraining orders, duty to warn/protect n Civil justice u Custody, visitation, culpability for harm n Other u Treatment, advocacy/support, education

10 Violence Risk Assessment n Evaluations of people to: u Characterize the risk they will commit violence in the future u Develop interventions to manage risk n The clinical task is to: u Understand how and why people chose to act violently in the past u Determine whether these or other factors might lead the person to make similar choices in the future

11 Goals of Risk Assessment n Prevent violence More specifically... u Guide intervention u Improve consistency of decisions u Improve transparency of decisions F Protect clients rights F Liability management

12 Nature of Violence Risk n Violence risk is a multi-faceted construct u Nature: what kinds of violence might occur? u Severity: how serious might the violence be? u Frequency: how often might violence occur? u Imminence: how soon might violence occur? u Likelihood: what is the probability that violence might occur?

13 Why Professional Guidelines? n Raw clinical prediction doesnt work well: u unreliable u low accuracy (validity) u not accountable n Actuarial prediction doesnt work well: u inflexible u poor content appropriateness u optimized (specific to sample, outcome criterion, and time of follow-up)

14 Why Professional Guidelines? (cont.) n Incorporates literature/science n Incorporates clinical knowledge u analogous to medical guidelines n Structures and informs decisions that are already being made

15 Specific Guidelines Make Sense n General violence measures are a good place to start, but can be misused u Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised u Violence Risk Appraisal Guide n Informed assessment improves upon traditional assessment u many risk factors mistaken for sympathy factors (e.g., suicidality, childhood victimization, employment problems)

16 Part 2 Content of the SARA

17 Development of the SARA n Review of clinical and empirical literature n Format decision u Guide/aide memoire versus psychological test n Selection of risk factors u Few, supported in literature, not discriminatory, static and dynamic, easily coded n Consultation with clinicians and academics

18 SARA Items: Criminal History n Past assault of family members n Past assault of strangers/acquaintances n Past violation of conditional release or community supervision

19 SARA: Psychosocial Adjustment n Recent relationship problems n Recent employment problems n Victim of and/or witness to family violence n Recent substance abuse/dependence n Recent suicidal or homicidal ideation/intent n Recent psychotic and/or manic symptoms n Personality disorder

20 Special Case: The Personality Disordered Offender n Borderline Personality u What is it? u Why does it matter? n Psychopathic Personality u What is it? u Why does it matter? F relationship to violence and recidivism F relationship to treatment

21 SARA: Spousal Assault History n Past physical assault n Past sexual assault/sexual jealousy n Past use of weapons and/or threats of death n Recent escalation in severity or frequency n Past violation of no-contact orders n Extreme minimization or denial n Attitudes that support or condone assault

22 SARA Items: Current Offense n Severe and/or sexual assault n Use of weapons and/or threats of death n Violation of no-contact orders » Note: Can substitute Most recent for Current

23 Summary of Items n General Violence risk factors u Criminal history variables u Psychosocial variables u Part 1 of SARA form n Spousal Assault risk factors u Spousal assault variables u Current or most recent offense u Part 2 of SARA form

24 Contact Information: n Stephen D. Hart, Ph.D. Department of Psychology Simon Fraser University Burnaby, British Columbia Canada V5A 1S6 Tel: 604.291.5485 / Fax: 604.291.3427 E-mail: URL:

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