Wagga researcher fears disclosure plan may lead to 'victim blaming'

A scheme designed to protect domestic violence victims may instead put them at risk, a Wagga researcher fears.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is currently being trialled at four locations in NSW and is designed to help people who may be at risk to find out if their current or former partner has a history of violent criminal offences.

But Dr Andreia Schineanu, a research association at Charles Sturt University, is concerned the scheme inadvertently puts the onus on the potential victim to keep herself safe.

“I can see how victims will now be told ‘well you should have accessed the register and checked on your partner’,” Dr Schineanu said.

“From my perspective, one of the biggest issues with the entire scheme is that it once again shifts the responsibility for ensuring safety on the potential victim as it asks them to investigate their partners and act on any information they receive while at the same time it removes the responsibility from the potential abuser.

“The ideology of the scheme also makes assumptions that are contrary to what we know about domestic violence.

“It assumes that once women have this information they will be able to leave, however, we know that there are multiple factors that prevent women from leaving a violent relationship even when they want to, such as fear of increasing violence, financial dependency, lack of support.

“Therefore, police may be less likely to intervene and assist women that have accessed the system but have stayed in the relationship and women may be victim blamed for not acting on the information. Thus there is a risk that the scheme may disadvantage the very people it tries to protect.”

Dr Schineanu was also concerned that limitations in the system prevented police in one state accessing criminal histories of people from another state.

“I think the scheme needs further work to ensure these issues are addressed otherwise there is a real risk that women may be placed at even greater risk of harm,” she said.

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