To identify the risk factors and assault characteristics of family violence among victims referred for forensic medical examination in Victoria, Australia.
A retrospective 1:1 case-control study was conducted, comparing adult family violence victims and non-family violence victims examined by clinical forensic practitioners from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, between July 2015 and June 2016. Data were extracted from victims’ forensic medical casework. Chi-square or Fisher’s exact tests and Mann-Whitney U tests were used to examine group differences. A multiple logistic regression analysis was used to determine independent predictors of family violence.
One hundred and forty-three family violence victims (97.2% female, Mdnage = 29, 90.2% intimate partner violence) were identified and gender- and age-matched with controls. Family violence victims had significantly higher odds of reporting a history of violence victimisation (OR = 5.20; 95% CI, 2.54 to 10.66) and current pregnancy (OR = 5.28; 95% CI, 1.09 to 25.46) than controls. Family violence was significantly more likely than non-family violence to occur in the victim’s home, and to involve physical assault, use of weapon(s), trauma to the neck and anal sexual assault. Family violence victims sustained significantly more physical injuries, and were more likely to be injured to almost every bodily location, than controls.
This study highlights the importance of assessing and managing risk for family violence following initial victimisation and throughout pregnancy. Findings further indicate that family violence is more dangerous (i.e. more likely to involve severe forms of assault and cause injury) than non-family violence.
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Exceptions include examinations conducted at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services or defence counsel. A small number of sexual assault examinations are also conducted as part of a ‘Just in Case’ program run by the Department of Justice and Regulation without Victoria Police involvement.
Forensic ‘recency’ is determined by the biological sampling time threshold, which depends on the nature of allegations and is subject to protocol change determined by scientific advice. It is generally approximately 72 h.
During the timeframe of this study. CASA now attend examinations of family violence victims as part of a pilot to implement recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
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The authors would like to thank Maaike Moller, Lyndal Bugeja and Nikolaos Kazantzis for their assistance with interpretation and presentation of the data. We are also grateful to the staff at the VIFM who assisted us in the collection of cases, especially Alexander Gillard.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Approval for this study was obtained from the VIFM Research Advisory Committee (RAC 008/17) and VIFM Human Research Ethics Committee (EC 06/2017).
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Zark, L., Hammond, S.M., Williams, A. et al. Family violence in Victoria, Australia: a retrospective case-control study of forensic medical casework. Int J Legal Med 133, 1537–1547 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-019-02000-9
- Family violence
- Domestic violence
- Clinical forensic medicine
- Medicolegal casework