Victoria Police, family violence risk assessments and gender stereotypes: the misidentification of women as predominant aggressors within the intervention order system

Miss Ellen Reeves1

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia

tailored to ensure that the rights of victims and survivors are of paramount importance.

The misidentification of women as predominant aggressors has received unprecedented attention in Australia in recent years, despite the issue being a key theme of family violence literature in the United States since the 1990s. In contrast to the U.S. and its implementation of pro and mandatory arrest policies, Australia encounters misidentification primarily within its various intervention order systems. This research examines Victoria’s family violence intervention order (FVIO) system and the various factors that made leave some women, who are often victim-survivors of family violence, vulnerable to being misidentified and subsequently having an intervention order application made against them. This presentation is based on some of the preliminary findings of a current PhD project, and examines key legal system stakeholders’ perceptions of how police carry out risk assessments in Victoria and the ways in which strongly-held views about women, victimhood and femininity may impact on police decision-making processes. The presentation will look closely at the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence and other key reports and initiatives within Victoria, and reflect on how the shift towards gendered family violence policing has perhaps not been adequately translated into practice. This PhD project is the first in-depth academic analysis of misidentification within the context of the intervention order system, and has important theoretical implications for criminology; law; and gender studies, as well as practical implications for family violence reform in Victoria and beyond.


Ellen Reeves is a postgraduate researcher with the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre. She is completing her PhD at Monash University, within the discipline of Criminology, supervised by Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon and Professor JaneMaree Maher. Her research focuses on family violence intervention orders and the misidentification of women as predominant aggressors in Victoria.  Ellen’s research is developing a significant evidence-base which can be utilised by policymakers and practitioners to ensure that practices are tailored to ensure that the rights of victims and survivors are of paramount importance.


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