A selection of current/past projects and associated publications by researchers from the Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN).

Gendered Violence & Work program

The Gendered Violence & Work program was launched in 2015 as part of UNSW’s Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) with expanded advisory and training services for employers who want to address the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on their employees and organisations. This was previously known as the ‘Safe at Home, Safe at Work’ program at UNSW funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

UNSW has been at the forefront of establishing the link between domestic, family and sexual violence and work, and has provided advice on appropriate responses for organisations of various sizes in different sectors, both in Australia and internationally. For example, we are currently partnering with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, along with the Business Coalition For Women and Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to address the effects of family and sexual violence (FSV) on the workplace in PNG. This includes the development of culturally-appropriate, gender-sensitive and gender-equitable strategies for businesses. In 2014, the team created PNG’s first ‘Model Policy on Family and Sexual Violence’ based on international good practice and participatory research in PNG. The current phase involves implementation support for local employers through research, training and advisory services, as well as building the capacity of local trainers.

Role of Cultural Factors in the Sentencing of Indigenous Sex Offenders in the Northern Territory

Funded by an ARC Discovery Grant (2013-2015) and led by Annie Cossins, Kylie Cripps and Megan Davis, this is a study of the impact of extra-legal factors about sexuality and Indigenous culture on the sentencing of Indigenous sex offenders in the Northern Territory (NT). It will provide an empirical basis for future policy, legal practice and law reform relating to sentencing in sexual assault cases in the NT, with broader application to other Australian jurisdictions.

Staying Home Leaving Violence (SHLV) Evaluation Framework

Researchers from GVRN have had a long-standing association with the State-funded Staying Home Leaving Violence (SHLV) program in New South Wales. The SHLV program aims to prevent the homelessness of women and children affected by domestic violence by enabling them to remain safely in their own home or a home of their choice without their violent partner. Our work has included undertaking the initial research leading to the development of the SHLV service model; writing the current SHLV practitioner’s operational manual; and contributing to a range of program reviews.

Most recently, researchers from the GVRN have been engaged by the NSW Government to evaluate the SHLV program against the overarching evaluation question – does the program enable women and children to remain free from domestic and family violence in a home of their choice, over time? This has involved developing a comprehensive framework for the evaluation, as well as integrating service monitoring data, client outcome evidence and practice reflection tools into one system for data collection and analysis. The collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data is currently underway with the final evaluation report to be completed by the end of November 2014.

Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse (ADFVC)

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse (established in 2000) was the national organisation for reviewing, collating and disseminating evidence-based research into the causes, effects and ongoing impact of domestic violence.

The Clearinghouse combined research and practitioner knowledge, with knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange, to promote and encourage innovation. It emphasised victim and survivor voices in all aspects of its work; rigorous and reliable research; evidence-based practice; and an outcome-focussed approach.

Through supporting the implementation of this knowledge and innovation the Clearinghouse aimed to bring about better outcomes for those experiencing domestic and family violence. It provided critical literature to the sector on economic costs of violence, workplace impacts of violence, family law systemic responses to violence, Indigenous responses to family violence, risk assessment, and the specific impact of violence on children, older women, CALD women and women with disability.

Effective 1 July 2014, the Clearinghouse has transitioned to ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety). In addition, selected Clearinghouse resources have been archived for ongoing stakeholder access via the link below.

Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse

Effects of Sexual Violence on Employees and the Workplace

As part of the Safe at Home, Safe at Work project, a scoping study examined the workplace impacts of sexual violence. The researchers hoped to learn about support needs in the workplace, such as time off to deal with the legal, medical and counselling issues workers may have following experiences of sexual violence. The report released in April 2014 provides recommendations to unions, peak industrial bodies, employers, workplaces and service providers. It highlights the need for services and industries to become aware of the dimensions of sexual assault, including the serious risk it poses in the workplace and its pervasive effects on people’s lives. The report similarly gave insight into enterprise bargaining, flexibility in work arrangements

Report on a scoping study into the effects of sexual violence on employees and the workforce (PDF)

Homelessness Action Plan (HAP) – Domestic Violence and Homelessness

In partnership with the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), researchers from GVRN conducted an extended evaluation of HAP long-term accommodation and support projects for women and children experiencing domestic violence in NSW. These HAP projects were designed to prevent homelessness as a result of domestic violence and improve outcomes for clients. GVRN and SPRC researchers gathered and analysed data to evaluate the effectiveness of the project models and practices in achieving these aims. The evaluation, completed in 2013, found that the projects represent a significant development in the provision of housing support for women and children who experience domestic and family violence. The projects extend the basic ‘case management with brokerage’ service model that has emerged in recent years by enabling greater flexibility and adding more formal structures for local integration and control of resources.

Homelessness Action Plan Evaluation Reports

Countering Misconceptions in Child Sexual Assault Cases with Expert Evidence and Judicial Directions

Low conviction rates in child sexual assault cases have been linked to jury misunderstandings of the child's evidence. As well, expert evidence in child sexual assault trials is rarely used by prosecutors as lawyers and courts lack information about best practices. Funded by an ARC Discovery Grant (2011-2013) and led by Annie Cossins and Jane Goodman-Delahunty, this study empirically documents the nature of jurors' pre-trial misconceptions about children's memory and responses to child sexual abuse. It then compares the effectiveness of specialised knowledge presented via expert evidence or a unique judicial direction in countering these misconceptions. The results permit evidence-based policy recommendations on the best mode of delivery of specialised knowledge to juries about child development and behaviour that is congruent with contemporary Australian rules of evidence and procedure.

A comparison of expert evidence and judicial directions to counter misconceptions in child sexual abuse trials

Domestic Violence and Disasters

Two research projects have been conducted on gender-based violence and disasters:

  • Organisational response to domestic violence in disasters - a case study of one town's experience during Cyclone Yasi. This research project investigated responses by the service sector (domestic violence and social services, and emergency responders) in the single community of Townsville to women's experience of domestic violence in a disaster context, as well as the capacity of organisations to cope with the disaster itself. The project aimed to inform the inclusion of domestic violence in disaster planning by social and emergency services.
  • Moving towards good practice – workers' experiences of responding to domestic violence during and post disasters. This study collected data via a national online survey. The survey focused on practice issues experienced by front-line workers responding to clients affected by domestic violence, during and after a disaster. Research findings were used to inform professional development and/or training and education.

Domestic Violence and Natural Disasters (PDF)

The First Australian Conference on Natural Disasters and Family Violence

Seeking Security - Promoting Women’s Economic Wellbeing Following Domestic Violence

This 2009-2010 study examined the impact of domestic violence on women’s economic wellbeing and the intersection of this with their recovery overall. The research explored the ways in which domestic violence creates complex economic issues for women (and their children), and how this disrupts their lives over the short and long term. It was equally concerned with investigating personal strategies and service initiatives that support those who have left violence to break free from financial uncertainty This study also highlights that for women experiencing domestic violence, financial security goes to the heart not only of their freedom from abuse, but also their recovery and capacity to (re)gain control over their lives now, and in the future.

Economic wellbeing: what does it really mean for women and their children affected by domestic violence? (PDF)

Preventing Domestic Violence-Related Homicide

Keeping Children with a Disability Safely in their Families

This 2007-2010 research project examined the effectiveness of Intensive Family Support (IFS) programs and was funded by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADAC). It was conducted in partnership with The Spastic Centre of New South Wales, Northcott Disability Services and Burnside UnitingCare.

The project utilised a mixed methods approach to address the core research questions: do families referred to an IFS program experience an increase in confidence and competence in managing their particular situations as a result of involvement in that IFS program; and does the IFS program (including program elements) significantly contribute to maintaining a child safely within their family?

The results of this research project replicated the findings of an earlier ARC Linkage study with both studies finding that the Intensive Family Support Intervention contributed to children with disabilities remaining safely with their families. A comprehensive report of the second of these projects was launched in 2010.

PDF Report (PDF) [1 Mb]

Use and Abuse - Adult Survivors of Child Abuse Experiences of Drug and Alcohol Services

The ‘Use and abuse’ research project in 2009 was a qualitative study designed to explore the adequacy of service provision to adult survivors of child abuse with alcohol or drug (AOD) problems. The project was funded by the Mental Health Coordinating Council of NSW and undertaken in partnership with the community-based organisation Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA).

Adult survivors of child abuse who had accessed AOD services in the previous five years in New South Wales were interviewed about their experiences of treatment, and AOD workers were interviewed about their experiences of working with this client population. The project complements existing research on the relationship between child abuse, AOD use and mental health difficulties, while uniquely exploring these issues from the perspectives of clients and workers.

The report from this project presented findings which focus on skills and strategies to facilitate building a better platform of care and treatment for adult survivors of child abuse within and across the AOD and mental health sectors.

Use and Abuse: understanding the intersections of childhood abuse, alcohol and drug use and mental health (PDF)

Disclosure and Help Seeking Among Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Relationships Australia (SA) funded this 2008 project to undertake a comprehensive research inquiry into client and worker experiences of disclosure and help-seeking among adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Research participants were recruited from Respond SA, the first designated service in South Australia established to address the significant unmet need of adult survivors of CSA.

The report of this project, ‘Cry for Help - Disclosure and Help Seeking by Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse’, described this research, including the processes of developing research aims, choice of research methods, design and implementation, the analysis of data, key findings and recommendations. The report also identified key issues which influence client experiences of disclosure and help seeking, and thus provided valuable information to practitioners within counselling services, further informing and enhancing existing practice, and contributed to the identification of service delivery and training needs and to strategic planning.

Cry for Help: client and worker experiences of disclosure and help seeking regarding child sexual abuse (PDF)

Future Publications

Cossins, A (2015) Female Criminality: Infanticide, Moral Panics and the Female Body, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, UK.

Cossins, A (forthcoming) Closing the Justice Gap for Rape and Child Sexual Assault: Addressing 'The Hardest Crime to Prosecute', Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, UK.