Communities and Justice

How do I assess the level of threat to my client?

Victim-survivors may suffer different levels of threat, so it is important that they receive the most appropriate response to address their safety needs.

Where you believe your client is a victim of domestic or family violence, or they have reported that they are a victim-survivor, you can assess their level of threat based on the following:

  • you can apply the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT) or another recognised risk assessment tool with your client
  • you can use your professional judgement; and/or
  • where available, you should use your client's perception of their own level of threat and the threat to their children

The outcome of the DVSAT will indicate whether your client is 'at threat' or 'at serious threat'.

Where the outcome of the assessment is that your client is at threat but you believe your client is at serious threat, you can use your professional judgement to upgrade the level of threat. You should never downgrade a level of threat.

Making an assessment about a serious threat of domestic violence

Particular domestic violence acts or behaviours indicate a higher level of threat to a victim. For example, attempted strangulation or choking immediately place a victim within reach of a dangerous threshold level and is often a predictor for more serious violence.

Some identified persons and communities are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence threats due to their situation of social and cultural disadvantage, isolation, or increased dependence. These include women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, from cultural and linguistically diverse communities, persons with disabilities or in residential settings.

Certain circumstances that can make victim-survivors more vulnerable to serious threats include:

  • the victim-survivor has separated (or is separating) from the perpetrator
  • the victim-survivor has a new partner
  • the perpetrator is about to be released from custody
  • family court matters have commenced
  • the victim-survivor is pregnant or has recently given birth
  • the perpetrator has returned to the victim-survivor's residence
  • the perpetrator becomes aware the victim-survivor is engaged with support services
  • the perpetrator's substance abuse has escalated; or
  • the perpetrator is experiencing increased mental health symptoms.

NOTE: A serious risk need not be an imminent risk.

Under Part 13A, there is no requirement to show that the threat is also imminent to classify it as serious. This is because in domestic violence situations a serious threat may exist but it might be hard to determine whether any adverse outcome is imminent.

For example, in cases of long term domestic violence where there have been repeated assaults there may be no identifiable immediate threats to a victim's safety, but concerns remain and violence can escalate very rapidly.

For more information on threat and assessment of threat, refer to the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool Guide. The guide also includes the most recent version of the DVSAT and information on how to use the tool.

Last updated:

21 Nov 2022