For immediate release: 28 February 2023

The injustice of reporting family violence – Engender Equality to release research discussion paper on the misidentification of the predominant aggressor by family violence respondents

  • A study by Women’s Legal Service NSW reported that two-thirds of women who had been identified as primary aggressors were victim survivors. i
  • A study by Women’s Legal Service Victoria reported that one in ten women who were victim-survivors had been misidentified as primary aggressors.ii
  • Tasmanian has a unique legislative approach to family violence which may contribute to misidentification. iii

Following a public forum held in 2022, Engender Equality is holding an event at Government House Hobart on Thursday 2nd March, 2023 to launch their research discussion paper on the misidentification of the predominant aggressor in Tasmania.

Engender Equality is releasing a research discussion paper on the misidentification of the predominant aggressor in Tasmania with an event at Government House Hobart to coincide with International Womens’ Day. This follows the successful public forum held in 2022 that provided the opportunity for community representatives and government representative to talk about the issue.

The research discussion paper Misidentification of the Predominant Aggressor in Tasmania: Practitioner Perspectives from Engender Equality provides important insight through the perspectives of family violence practitioners into the experiences of victim-survivors of family violence who have reported to police but have been wrongly identified as the aggressor in the relationship.

Misidentification of predominant aggressor occurs when the police or other responder inaccurately determine who the person using abusive behaviour is in a family violence relationship.

Previous research has shown that predominant aggressors are more likely to use violence for abuse and control, whereas a victim-survivors are more likely to use violence in retaliation or self-defence. In response to a report of family violence, police may misinterpret these nuanced dynamics, leading them to misidentify the victim-survivor as the predominant aggressor.

“There is a growing body of research to suggest that women are being misidentified as predominant aggressors in increasing numbers in Tasmania. Women who have been misidentified may face criminal charges, poverty, removal of children, loss of reputation and employment and re-traumatisation through the system that is meant to be there to protect them. Misidentification may be influenced by systems abuse (perpetrator using the system to use power and control) and incident-based policing. It is clear that the impacts are broad and far-reaching and influence the recovery of a victim-survivor in many ways” Ms Thomas explained.

“We are hoping that this paper will assist police and stakeholders who provide family violence support to gain greater insight into the issue and encourage policy and legislation to be reviewed to reduce the number of victim-survivors who are mis-identified. Engender Equality is very passionate about advocating to address this problem and hope that our research leads to change.” Ms Thomas added.

A full copy of the report will be made available the website after the event.

Attendance at the event is by invitation only but there will be a media opportunity on the lawns of Government House after the event which runs from 12:30 – 2:00 pm.