Go to top of page

Support services for male victims of violence in New South Wales: A snapshot

A review of the available literature suggested that a substantial proportion of male victims are significantly and negatively affected by their victimisation experiences and consequently may benefit from engaging with formal support services following the offence. In New South Wales, there are currently a number of support agencies and programs that male victims may choose to engage with following a violent offence (see Table 4). These programs and agencies differ from one another on a number of points:

  • Service delivery model—Some programs provide services over the telephone (eg Lifeline, MensLine and the Victims Access Line (VAL)), whereas others provide face-to-face assistance and support (eg Victims and Witnesses of Crime Court Service (VWCCS) and Mission Australia’s Court Support Service (CSS)). Further, many of the identified programs also provide support and assistance services in an online environment. For example, MensLine clients can take part in online and video counselling sessions; a number of services provide referral information on their websites (eg Lifeline, Victims Services), while others have online resources such as leaflets and booklets that can be used by victims with Internet access (eg the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Witness Assistance Service (DPP WAS).
  • Identified priority areas—Some services focus their resources on identified priority crime types and/or victim groups (DPP WAS and the Aboriginal Client Service Specialists (ACSS) program), whereas others are ‘generalist’ services that do not explicitly identify priority areas (eg VWCCS, MensLine and Mission Australia’s CSS).
  • Location—Most of the programs operate in selected sites across New South Wales (VWCCS, Salvation Army court chaplains and the ACSS program), while others are available statewide (eg the VAL, MensLine and Lifeline). Whether a program is available throughout New South Wales or in selected locations appears to be influenced by the service delivery model—most telephone services are available throughout the state, whereas face-to-face support may only be provided in specific locations.
  • Types of support provided—Services may focus their resources on providing emotional and/or spiritual support to victims in crisis (eg Salvation Army court chaplains), information about the different services available to victims (eg VAL), information about the court process (eg VWCCS, the ACSS program and Mission Australia’s CSS) or a combination of all three.
  • Eligibility criteria—While the majority of programs did not have clear eligibility criteria, some services did. For example, only victims of violence whose allegations are substantiated can access support under the Financial Compensation or Approved Counsellor Schemes, which are both managed by Victims Services.

Another point of differentiation between programs is the juncture at which they engage with victims. Some services provide assistance immediately after the incident or when victims attend court, whereas others are underpinned by a continuation of care model. This means that they engage with victims as early as possible and provide case management for the period of their treatment and recovery.

Further, while all of the support agencies that participated in the consultations said they had male victims on their current client lists, there did appear to be significant variation between programs in relation to the proportion of their caseload that was comprised of male victims. Some services reported that less than 10 percent of their clients were male victims of non-domestic and non-sexual assault, while others suggested that it was higher, at around 40 percent. In general, male victims appeared to only comprise a small proportion of formal support agencies caseloads.

Table 4 New South Wales-based formal support services available to male victims of crime
Program/service Availability Service delivery model Priority areas Supports provided ale specific?
MensLine Statewide Telephone Online Men experiencing familial and relationship issues Counselling Referral information Yes
Lifeline Statewide—Telephone Crisis Support and Crisis Support Chat lines Selected locations—counselling services Telephone Face-to-face Online n/a Counselling Emotional support Referral information No
DPP WAS Selected locations—there is a WAS Officer at all offices of the DPP Statewide—online resources Face-to-face Online Child victims Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and child abuse Emotional support Information about court processes Referral information No
Salvation Army court chaplains Selected locations Face-to-face n/a Emotional support Information about the court process No
VWCCS Selected Local, District and Children’s Courts Face-to-face Online n/a Emotional support Information about court processes Referral information No
Victims Services Statewide—VAL and the online resources Selected Locations—face-to-face contact with Client Service Officers or Referral & Support Officers Telephone Face-to-face Online n/a Financial compensation Referral information Information about court processes No
Mission Australia Court Support Service Selected Local, District and Supreme Courts Face-to-face n/a Emotional support Information about court processes Referral information No
Enough is Enough Statewide—counselling may be provided over the telephone Selected locations—group therapies and counselling Telephone Face-to-face Offender reform Counselling Information about court processes Referral information No
VOCAL (Victims of Crime Assistance League) Statewide—referral information Selected locations—counselling Face-to-face Online n/a Emotional support Information about court processes Referral information No
ACSS Selected Local Courts Face-to-face Telephone Indigenous persons (victims and offenders) Emotional support Information about court processes Referral information No

Points of contact

The following describes the points at which male victims of violence may make contact and engage with formal support services during the period following the incident. This section prefaces further discussion later in the report about how these points of contact are maintained and where disconnection may occur.

Following the incident

For the purposes of this discussion, initial contact with the police represents the first point, outside of contact with medical services and the like, where victims are first formally provided with information about services that are available to victims of crime.

In New South Wales, every victim who reports a matter to the police is to be given a Victims’ Card by one of the attending officers. At a minimum, the Victims’ Card includes:

  • the name and contact details of the investigating officer;
  • the COPS event number (incident reference number);
  • contact details for the VAL, operated by Victims Services of the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice;
  • the contact number for the Families and Friends of Missing Persons Unit; and
  • information regarding police responsibilities as to The Charter of Victims Rights.

Victims who report a crime to the police using the NSW Police Assistance Line will not necessarily be given this information by the customer service representative. However, unless a matter is considered to be very minor, face-to-face engagement with a police officer will invariably ensue where the victim will be provided with a Victims’ Card. Some victims may receive SMS notification of their report but this notice only includes information such as the COPS event number.

Where a homicide has occurred, one of the investigating officers assumes the role of family liaison officer with the victim’s family. The family liaison officer has dual responsibilities in (a) providing support to the family and updating them on progress and (b) playing an active role in the investigation of the homicide. Considering that it can take a significant period of time to finalise homicide matters, family liaison officers and victims can potentially have a lengthy period of engagement with one another.

Family victims of homicide receive automatic referral to the Homicide Victims’ Support Group (HVSG). The NSW Police Force has established a Memorandum of Understanding with Victims Services and the HVSG, with arrangements being considered or almost in place with other service providers to provide family members and friends of homicide victims with a wider choice of support options. The HVSG, which is a non-government organisation, makes contact with victims within 24 hours of notification. It provides grief counselling services (for Sydney residents) and referrals to counsellors (for other NSW residents), support meetings (where members can meet with one another to talk) and court support. It also liaises with other relevant service providers (such as the DPP WAS) on the family’s behalf. The HVSG is closely aligned with Victims’ Services to facilitate other services, such as compensation claims.

For incidents that do not involve a homicide, the lead investigating officer takes on a liaison role with the victim, which involves providing a reference to available services (ie through those listed on the Victims’ Card) and follow up regarding progress in the case. The designated officer must follow up with the victim within seven days, but not within 12 hours, of receipt of the report and every 28 days from therein for the duration of the case. The officer in charge is, where possible, a senior member of the investigation team but for high-volume crime, the officer who takes the report generally adopts this role. In the latter’s absence, victims can request to speak to the officer’s supervising sergeant.

In addition to the previously outlined victim support roles and duties, the NSW Police Force Local Area Commands have specialist officers that can assist victims of crime. These include:

  • Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers, whose responsibilities include providing an avenue for community members to report crime and to encourage Indigenous persons to work with police to develop programs to address crime and violence in their communities;
  • Crime Prevention Officers, who support victims of crime in developing strategies to avoid becoming repeat victims and to lessen fear of crime;
  • Domestic Violence Liaison Officers, who provide support and referral for victims of domestic violence;
  • Multicultural Liaison Officers, whose duties include victim support and follow up, basic language assistance, network referrals and assisting victims to report crime; and
  • Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers, who provide assistance to victims of anti-gay/lesbian violence (including domestic violence) and harassment, as well as working with the gay and lesbian community to develop programs to reduce and prevent anti-gay/lesbian violence and to encourage reporting of such crimes.

The responsibilities of the police towards a victim of crime must ultimately be managed alongside their equivalent responsibility to investigate and resolve the criminal matter. It was suggested that by virtue of their role as law enforcement officers, the police service does not have the resources or capacity to provide ongoing support to victims of crime outside of what they are currently mandated to undertake.

Pre-court support

The most widely available formal support service available at the pre-court stage (and continuing through and after the court process) is the DPP WAS. The DPP WAS provides assistance to victims and witnesses involved in DPP prosecutions, including:

  • court preparation and in situ support;
  • information about and referral to counselling and other support services; and
  • information regarding Victim Impact Statements and Victims Registers.

Referrals to the DPP WAS are internally generated. DPP administrative staff review matters registered by the NSW Police Force and forward relevant matters to the WAS. These matters are then screened and prioritised based on:

  • matter type, with a firm focus on sexual assault (including historical and present-day cases of child sexual assault), domestic violence, homicide and other incidents involving death (eg driving causing death) but also including incidents where the victim experienced severe trauma or injury;
  • age of the victim/witness, where all children victims receive support; and
  • vulnerability of the victim/witness, including Indigenous or CALD victims or victims with a mental health condition, intellectual disability or an acquired brain injury.

The priority areas of support identified by the DPP WAS have meant that the great majority of their clients are women and children. Adult male clients were predominantly victims of historic cases of child sexual abuse.

Stakeholders said that it was ‘rare’ for the DPP WAS to receive direct referrals from police or solicitors but where they did occur, it was usually when the victim had been assessed as high needs or experiencing difficulties coping with their victimisation and/or the court case. Referrals from solicitors regarding male victims sometimes came relatively late in the court process, usually after the solicitor has read the victim impact statement and (belatedly) realised the effect of the crime on the victim. Even in these situations it was unlikely the DPP WAS would be in a position to assist other than providing the solicitor with information to pass on to the victim about the kinds of services that might be available to the victim should they require it.

Pre-court support is also provided by a small group of non-government organisations. Clients may be referred to the organisation from the DPP (or the DPP WAS), the police or other support agencies or they may be referred internally (ie from chapters providing other forms of assistance). Walk-in clients do occur but they were much less common.

Court support

Male victims who are either ineligible for support from the DPP WAS or not connected with other service providers during the pre-court phase, may seek or receive offers of assistance from (mostly non-government) organisations that make first contact with clients in the court setting. Court support workers from these organisations are located in select local, district and/or supreme courts, mainly in metropolitan Sydney but with some regional coverage from the ACSS program and DPP WAS.

Court support workers employ a mix of approaches in identifying potential clients—reviewing court listings, talking to police prosecutors and literally walking around the courthouse to locate persons who may need assistance. Some service providers claimed they did not necessarily differentiate who they approached, whereas others preferentially selected clients based on their assessment of need. Potential male clients identified by court support workers were generally described as those looking ‘anxious or scared’, ‘typically not sitting with a solicitor’ or on their own with no apparent companions (Service providers personal communication September – October 2012). Clients may also initiate contact with support workers themselves, but this appeared to be an infrequent occurrence. For example, it was considered ‘very rare’ for an Indigenous man to approach a support worker, instead it was more likely that a female family member would contact the support worker or the agency on behalf of the male victim/witness.

Broader service provision—referral and follow up

At each point of contact, male victims may be referred to a broader range of services outside court support and related assistance, including counselling, group therapy, compensation and welfare matters such as housing. In this instance, victims may be encouraged or recommended to seek some form of additional support before, during and/or after court proceedings, and are provided with information about options for support. In some cases, re-referral may occur. Referrals were offered where services were ‘available or appropriate’ and/or where the service provider ‘deemed (it) necessary’, usually based on an assessment that the victim/witness was having difficulties coping (Service providers personal communication September 2012). Issues around the availability and appropriateness of services for male victims will be described in later chapters.

Last updated
3 November 2017