Literature Review on Domestic Violence Perpetrators urbis staff responsible for this report were

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1.2.1Domestic and family violence

There are ongoing debates regarding the definition of ‘domestic’ and ‘family violence’, and ‘sexual violence’ in Australia. These terms, particularly family and domestic, are used interchangeably or in combination in the literature. In addition, other terms such as ‘battered women’ and ‘sexual violence’ are also commonly used (Laing 2000).

For the purposes of this review, and the broader study concerning intervention programs, domestic violence is understood to be an abuse of power perpetrated primarily, but not only, by men against women, both in the context of a relationship, as well as after the relationship may have ended. It occurs when one partner – and in some cases, both partners – attempt physical, psychological, emotional, financial or social control over the other. Whilst domestic violence takes several forms, the most commonly recognised, and officially recorded, forms include physical and sexual violence, threats of violence and intimidation, emotional and social abuse, and economic deprivation.

In light of the varying ways in which domestic violence can be categorised and understood, we have utilised the definition of family violence as prescribed in Section 4 of the Family Law Act 1975.

Conduct, whether actual or threatened, by a person towards the property of, a member of the person’s family that causes that or any other member of the person’s family reasonably to fear for or reasonably to be apprehensive about, his or her personal well-being or safety.

1.2.2Sexual assault

Definitions of sexual assault vary considerably (Fileborn, 2011). For the purpose of this project, sexual assault will be defined to include

intentionally or recklessly engaging in a sexual act (whether or not it involves penetration of the vagina by the penis) without the consent of the victim.

This definition is taken to exclude sexual harassment.

The above definition is informed by the essential elements of the criminal offence of sexual assault across Australia, as set out in the Australian Centre for Sexual Assault’s paper, Sexual Assault Laws in Australia (Fileborn, 2011, p. 6). This is consistent with our definition of sex offender programs (see below), which is tied to a perpetrator having been charged or convicted of a sexual offence.

1.3Definition of domestic violence and sexual assault programs

For the purpose of this project:

A domestic violence program will be defined as: a behaviour change program in a group context for perpetrators of violence against their partners or former partners (whether or not they are/were married or cohabiting at the time).

A sexual assault program will be defined as: a behaviour change program in a group context for perpetrators of sexual assault who have been charged or convicted of at least one sexual assault offence (including indecent assault) against an adult (aged over 18 years) which has occurred in either a familial or non-familial context.

The following components were included in the literature review: programs for male perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault against women, and for female perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault against women.

Male perpetrators of domestic violence or sexual assault against men and female perpetrators of either offence against men have not been considered in this literature review. It is acknowledged that in practice the great majority of programs will be targeted towards men who commit domestic violence or sexual assault against women.

We have excluded sexual assault programs that work with juvenile sexual assault offenders as these programs are beyond the scope of this review.

This review included literature that refers to individual programs as well as broader analyses.

1.4Searches conducted for the literature review

The searches for the review were conducted for Urbis by the Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse at the University of NSW. A detailed scoping document was prepared by Urbis to guide this process.

The following key search terms were used:

sexual assault program* and perpetrator*,

sexual assault perpetrator*

domestic violence or spouse abuse and review

treatment program* and men

perpetrator program*

behavio* change program*


The key library databases searched were: PsychInfo, Ovid Medline, Informit (including databases contained within: Health & Society, Rural & remote health database, APA-FT - Australian Public Affairs, Humanities and Social Sciences Collection, CINCH), Web of Science (including databases: Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Conference Proceedings Citation Index- Social Science & Humanities), and ProQuest. The Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse’s Research and Resources database and Good Practice database were also searched.

The following key websites were also searched:

Google, Google Books and Amazon

No To Violence

Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (ACSSA)

Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC)

Australian Institute of Family Studies

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR)

MINCAVA Electronic Clearinghouse (

Canada National Clearinghouse on Family Violence

VAWNET- US National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women (

Coordinated Action on Human Rights Violations (


Respect Network in the UK

World Health Organization

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (US)

Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House (Canada)

XY (a pro-feminist website)

Respect Network (UK)

MINCAVA Electronic Clearinghouse (

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