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The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA)

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Presentation on theme: "The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA)"— Presentation transcript:


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

3 Part 1 Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Goals of Risk Assessment
Prevent violence More specifically... Guide intervention Improve consistency of decisions Improve transparency of decisions Protect clients’ rights Liability management

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

12 Why Professional Guidelines?
“Raw” clinical prediction doesn’t work well: unreliable low accuracy (validity) not accountable Actuarial prediction doesn’t work well: inflexible poor content appropriateness optimized (specific to sample, outcome criterion, and time of follow-up)

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

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

15 Part 2 Content of the SARA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 Contact Information: Stephen D. Hart, Ph.D. Department of Psychology Simon Fraser University Burnaby, British Columbia Canada V5A 1S6 Tel: / Fax: URL:

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